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The re-emerging burden of rickets: a decade of experience from Sydney
  1. P D Robinson1,
  2. W Högler2,
  3. M E Craig1,
  4. C F Verge3,
  5. J L Walker3,
  6. A C Piper4,
  7. H J Woodhead3,
  8. C T Cowell1,
  9. G R Ambler1
  1. 1The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2Department of Paediatrics, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  3. 3Sydney Children’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia
  4. 4Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr P D Robinson
    The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, NSW, 2145, Australia; paulr3{at}


Aim: To define the demographics and clinical characteristics of cases presenting with nutritional rickets to paediatric centres in Sydney, Australia.

Methods: Retrospective descriptive study of 126 cases seen from 1993 to 2003 with a diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency and/or confirmed rickets defined by long bone x ray changes.

Results: A steady increase was seen in the number of cases per year, with a doubling of cases from 2002 to 2003. Median age of presentation was 15.1 months, with 25% presenting at less than 6 months of age. The most common presenting features were hypocalcaemic seizures (33%) and bowed legs (22%). Males presented at a younger age, with a lower weight SDS, and more often with seizures. The caseload was almost exclusively from recently immigrated children or first generation offspring of immigrant parents, with the region of origin predominantly the Indian subcontinent (37%), Africa (33%), and the Middle East (11%). Seventy nine per cent of the cases were born in Australia. Eleven cases (all aged <7 months) presented atypically with hyperphosphataemia.

Conclusions: This large case series shows that a significant and increasing caseload of vitamin D deficiency remains, even in a developed country with high sunlight hours. Cases mirror recent immigration trends. Since birth or residence in Australia does not appear to be protective, screening of at risk immigrant families should be implemented through public health policies.

  • rickets
  • vitamin D deficiency

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