What Is Neonatal Hemochromatosis?

Neonatal hemochromatosis is a condition suffered by newborns. It is a syndrome reflecting severe liver disease that has happened during the fetal period, or when the child is still developing in the mother's womb. Excessive deposition of iron is noted in the liver, often leading to liver disease. It is not the same as genetic or hereditary hemochromatosis, as the collection of symptoms become apparent during the neonatal stage. Genetic hemochromatosis only shows manifestations later in life, around the age of 20-30 years old. Babies born with hemochromatosis often are delivered stillborn, premature, or show signs of intrauterine growth retardation.

The exact cause of neonatal hemochromatosis is not known. Numerous studies and research are being conducted in order to identify the direct cause of the condition. Some research indicates that a fetus can get the condition when the mother acquires a factor that will lead to injury of the perinatal liver. It is believed that neonatal hemochromatosis is an autosomal recessive trait with the mother acting as a carrier. A study resulted to a finding that a single mother can give birth to children with the condition even though each child has a different father.

It is not easy to give an adequate prediction or diagnosis that a baby will have neonatal hemochromatosis even with physical manifestations on the mother during gestational age. Mothers often have placental edema, oliguria, disseminated intravascular coagulation, as well as intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). These signs are inconclusive as they can also indicate other maternal or fetal condition. Prognosis is poor for babies suffering from the condition. Neonates often survive only for a few hours or several weeks unless medically treated. Liver transplant is often recommended as treatment, but recent advancement in technology and research has made medical support somewhat favorable to treating infants. These medical treatments must first be used before going into drastic measures as some infants respond well to the treatment. Success rate, however, is 10% -20%. The medical treatment is done by giving the infant a cocktail that is prepared with antioxidants and iron chelating agent. Careful monitoring during treatment and after liver transplant is necessary to see if the infant is responding well, or may be suffering from complications.