Hypervitaminosis A-induced premature closure of epiphyses (physeal obliteration) in humans and calves (hyena disease): a historical review of the human and veterinary literature


Vitamin A toxicity in the infant, which now occurs rarely from dietary overdosage, was recognized in the 1940s as painful periostitis with rare progression to premature closure of the lower limb epiphyses. Decades later, most cases of vitamin A-induced premature epiphyseal closure (physeal obliteration) occur in pediatric dermatologic patients given vitamin A analogues. This phenomenon resembles a strange disease discovered in more recent years in calves with closed epiphyses of the hind limbs, known as hyena disease. This was a mystery until proved to be caused by vitamin A toxicity from enriched grain that causes the calves to have short hind limbs that resemble those of a hyena and gait disturbance. This historical review links the human and veterinary literature in terms of vitamin A-induced epiphyseal closure using a case report format of a 16-month-old human infant with closed knee epiphyses and gait disturbance that is reminiscent of hyena disease seen in calves.

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Correspondence to Robert A. Cowles.

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In honor of Dr. David H. Baker (1959–1982)

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Rothenberg, A.B., Berdon, W.E., Woodard, J.C. et al. Hypervitaminosis A-induced premature closure of epiphyses (physeal obliteration) in humans and calves (hyena disease): a historical review of the human and veterinary literature. Pediatr Radiol 37, 1264–1267 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00247-007-0604-0

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  • Vitamin A
  • Epiphyses
  • Overdose
  • Gait
  • Children