Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
Children who receive multiple CT scans, which expose them to radiation, are at a higher risk of developing cancer later in life, a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics. More from NBC News:
While CT scans provide “beautiful 3-D pictures of the inside of the body,” they also subject patients to a significant amount of radiation, which may boost the risk of future cancer, said the study’s lead author Diana Miglioretti, a professor of biostatistics at the University of California, Davis, and a senior investigator at the Group Health Research Institute.
Between 1996 and 2006 CT scans in children under age 5 nearly doubled, while they almost tripled in kids aged 5 to 14 years, according to the report in JAMA Pediatrics. While the number of scans in children has declined since 2006, it’s still much higher than in 1996.
While the researchers suspect many of those scans could be avoided, for some kids, like 5-year-old Dezhan Frajer, the clearer 3D images that come from CT are the only way to figure out what’s wrong. Dezhan has been suffering from some complicated ear and eye symptoms, and his mom, Tamika is hoping his scans will explain what’s going on.
CT scans are often used in kids when appendicitis is suspected or to rule out severe damage when children hit their heads hard or if there is concern that the spine has been injured. They are also used to diagnose brain tumors and other abnormalities.
CT scans became more popular because, “it is a great tool and is very sensitive and accurate,” Miglioretti said.
Miglioretti and her colleagues scrutinized data from six large HMOs. Included in the study were data from 152,419 to 371,095 children each year. They found CT scan use jumped between 1996 and 2005, remained stable until 2007, and then started to decline.
Even with the decline, in 2010 scans were still being done at nearly two and a half times the rate of 1996 in children aged 5 to 14 and one-and-a-half times the 1996 rate in children under age 5.
Image: Pediatric CT scan, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
The national policy that governs the way organ donations and transplants work has been given a one-year change to allow children under age 12 to be eligible for priority on adult transplant lists. The temporary change was prompted by a lawsuit filed by the family of 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan, who has cystic fibrosis and needs a lung transplant. More from CNN:
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The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network’s executive committee approved the change in a conference call. It said in a statement that doctors may submit a request to a national review board to have a child who is younger than 12 put on a list for older patients.
The board has seven days to approve the request, taking into account the child’s lung allocation score.
The policy change is valid until July 2014, when it will be re-evaluated.
The temporary exception stems from a case filed by the family of 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan, who has cystic fibrosis and needs new lungs. A federal junction last week ordered U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to tell the OPTN to set aside the rule, but the injunction was good for only 10 days.
“We consider this a tremendous win for Sarah and all kids waiting for lungs,” her mother, Janet, said in a statement on Facebook. “I hope Sarah’s story moves people to become organ donors, because more than any ruling it is the heroes who donate their organs that save lives.”
Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Omegaven, a medication developed at Boston Children’s Hospital to save the lives of infants who cannot absorb nutrition, is stuck in the FDA approval process, apparently causing delays that leave parents and doctors alike frustrated and worried. The drug is a crucial part of treatment for Microvillus Inclusion Disease, a rare genetic condition in which a child cannot absorb fluid or nutrients except through a direct injection of a treatment called total parenteral nutrition, or TPN. TPN, however, can cause liver damage over time; Omegaven counters that damaging effect. More from NBC News:
The potentially life-saving medication Omegaven, an intravenous mixture made with fish oil, reduces the fatal fat accumulation in children’s livers caused by TPN. Fish oil contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to prevent fat buildup.
It is unclear when or whether Omegaven will be approved. The normal FDA process for approval is to test medications in large trials that randomly assign patients to receive either the new drug or a placebo. In fatal illnesses, that can present doctors with a tough ethical quandary: Do you do the science right and potentially lose some patients or just keep treating patients in research studies.
Not daunted by the lack of FDA approval, Sam [O’Connor's] family signed him up for a Boston Children’s Hospital research study looking at the new medication’s efficacy.
It didn’t take long to see results.
“For me, it was . . . the personality change,” Debra said. “To have him start responding to me and playing, it’s just like he’s actually a person again. You know, it’s almost like his life started at that point because before it was just enduring.”
Now 5, Sam is one of the lucky ones because he was able to get the drug he needed. Other children aren’t so lucky, says Puder, who developed the Omegaven treatment after watching up to four children die from liver failure each year at his hospital alone.
Without FDA approval, Omegaven is available only to those who can come to Boston to take the drug in a research protocol, or at another hospital with special dispensation from the FDA, a provision called “compassionate use.”
Image: Doctor holding infant, via Shutterstock
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Monday, June 10th, 2013
“Tummy time,” the daily periods when parents are urged to place an infant on his or her stomach to encourage motor development, may not be as helpful as initially believed, according to a new study published in the journal Early Human Development. More from The New York Times:
Canadian researchers compared 1,114 infants born from 1990 to 1992, just before the “back to sleep” campaign began, with 351 infants born 20 years later. They found no difference between the two groups in the age at which prone to supine or supine to prone rolling began, or in the order in which those behaviors appeared.
They were not able to measure the effect of “tummy time,” but they note that it is not known how many parents consistently use the procedure and that, anecdotally, most who do find it difficult to keep their babies on their bellies for any length of time.
Whether tummy time helps or not, said the lead author, Johanna Darrah, a pediatric physical therapist at the University of Alberta, “the back to sleep campaign has not adversely affected motor development. Motor development happens.”
Image: Baby on tummy, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 7th, 2013
At least eight children have died this spring, mostly under the age of 2, because they have been left or trapped inside hot cars. This news, released by the advocacy group KidsAndCars.org, is a renewed wake-up call for parents and caregivers to be mindful not to leave young children unattended in or near cars on hot days. More from NBC News:
That includes seven deaths in May alone, nearly double the typical number of heatstroke deaths during the month involving kids forgotten or neglected in vehicles, according to the advocacy group KidsAndCars.org. It provides a devastating reminder of the consequences of distraction and stress.
“It has everything to do with our brains letting us down at the worst possible moment,” said Janette Fennell, president and founder of the group that works to raise awareness about the dangers of hot cars.
One child has died so far in June, a 2-year-old Escambia, Fla. boy, Hezekiah Brooks, who went missing Sunday on a 92-degree day and was found four hours later on the floorboards of his grandfather’s car with the windows rolled up, police said.
Most deaths occurred when otherwise well-meaning parents or caregivers failed to notice that kids were still in the cars.
The May deaths occurred in four states over about two weeks, starting with the May 10 accident involving a 5-month-old girl who was left in a car at Riverside High School in El Paso, Texas. Her mother, Wakesha Ives, 37, is a teacher at the school, according to news reports. El Paso law enforcement officials told NBC News they’re still investigating the case.
To date, 567 children have died after being left in cars in the U.S. since 1998, according to figures from the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, which tracks reports.
Image: Child in car, via Shutterstock
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