Posts Tagged ‘ infant health ’

Probiotics May Help Clear Infant Colic

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

A new study of the use of probiotics, or “good bacteria” in infants has revealed a possible correlation with lower gastrointestinal discomfort and the pattern of crying and fussiness known as colic.  More from LiveScience:

In the study, newborns that received a daily dose of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri had fewer episodes of inconsolable crying (colic), constipation and regurgitation (reflux) at age three months compared to newborns given a placebo.

Use of probiotics also had benefits in terms of reducing health care expenses, such as money spent on emergency department visits, or money lost when parents took time off work. On average, families with infants that took probiotics saved about $119 per child, the researchers said.

However, more research is needed to confirm the findings before it can be recommended for newborns, experts say. Currently, doctors do not recommend that probiotics be used routinely in infants, said Dr. William Muinos, co-director of the gastroenterology department at Miami Children’s Hospital, who was not involved with the study.

And although the treatment was not related to any harmful events in the current study, use of probiotics could potentially pose risks to newborns, Muinos said. For example, the lining of a newborn’s intestinal tract is less mature, and more porous, than that of an older child, which could cause some bacteria to seep into the blood stream, Muinos said. This risk will need to be evaluated in future studies, Muinos said.

Need helping finding the right pediatrician for your child? Click here for our free worksheet so you know all the right questions to ask.

How to Relieve Colic
How to Relieve Colic
How to Relieve Colic

Image: Peacefully sleeping infant, via Shutterstock

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U.S. Infant Mortality Rate Falls, But Only Slightly

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Federal researchers announced this week that the American infant mortality rate, which is used as a way to judge our overall health, dropped in 2010, the last year it was measured.  But the drop wasn’t as sharp as researchers had hoped, as NBC News reports:

Birth defects and low birth weight were the two leading causes of newborn death, the survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found. And babies born to teenage mothers were the most likely to weigh too little, the NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

They report that the U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.14 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 2010, which is just 4 percent lower than the rate of 6.39 in 2009. This adds up to 24,572 babies who died at or around birth in 2010.

The United States may be one of the richest countries in the world, but has a very high rate of infant mortality compared to other wealthy countries — and compared even to some not-so-rich countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) consistently finds the U.S. near the bottom of its list of 34-member countries on this measure.

The U.S. infant mortality rate is well above the OECD average of four deaths per 1,000. In Iceland, just 1.6 babies out of every 1,000 die and in Sweden, Japan, and Finland, it’s around two per 100,000.

In January of this year, the Institute of Medicine had released data showing the U.S. infant mortality rate was more than double that of many other developed countries.

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Disabled Baby Turned Down for Heart Transplant

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

A 5-month-old baby named Maverick who was born with a rare genetic defect in addition to severe heart problems does not qualify for a potentially life-saving heart transplant because of the genetic condition, doctors have told parents Autumn Chenkus and Charlie Higgs. The story, which is now the subject of a federal investigation because the parents are accusing doctors of withholding the heart unfairly because of fears Maverick could have severe disabilities later in life, highlights the debate within the medical community over how organ transplant decisions should be made. CNN.com has more on Maverick’s story:

Maverick was born with a severe heart defect, and even after two surgeries was in heart failure. Doctors had discussed a heart transplant with Maverick’s parents, but at the meeting they said he didn’t qualify for a new heart because he had a rare genetic defect that put him at a high risk for tumors and infections. A heart transplant would be too risky, they explained.

As Chenkus did her research on Maverick’s genetic condition, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Not one of the studies she read mentioned anything about an increased risk for tumors or infections. She e-mailed one study’s author, and he confirmed she was right.

Now they’ll do the transplant for sure, she told Maverick’s father excitedly. Our son doesn’t have to go home and die.

But it didn’t matter. The doctors still refused to give Maverick a new heart.

At first, Maverick’s mother was confused, but then she said it dawned on her: This supposed propensity for infections and tumors was a smokescreen.

She felt the real reason the doctors were denying their baby a life-saving transplant was that children with Maverick’s genetic condition grow up to have disabilities. They don’t want to give Maverick a heart because he won’t grow up to be “normal,” she thought.

At another meeting, she looked one of the doctors in the eye.

“You’re discriminating,” she said.

“That’s ridiculous,” she remembers the doctor responding.

“You don’t want to waste a heart on him,” Chenkus replied. “You’re trying to play God, and you’re lying to me.”

What happened next is the subject of a federal investigation and has pitted a family against the very doctors who were supposed to save their baby’s life.

There are few hard and fast rules to guide doctors as they select who will get a transplant, effectively selecting who will live and who will die.

And there’s no question some will die. Last year in the United States, 321 people, including 19 infants, lost their lives while waiting for a new heart. Right now, some 3,500 people await a heart transplant, and the situation is only getting more desperate as the waiting list grows but the number of donors remains about the same.

In the face of such scarcity, doctors try to select the patients most likely to get the longest life, and the highest quality of life, from a new heart.

“We have to be stewards of a very valuable resource. We want hearts to go to people who we think will benefit the most from them,” said Dr. David Taylor, immediate past president of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.

These decisions are, to some extent, subjective, as doctors sometimes disagree with each other about who should get an organ. Over the years, medical ethicists and patient advocates have accused transplant physicians of discriminating against one group in particular: the disabled.

“We absolutely know this happens. It’s a huge problem,” said David Magnus, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University. “It’s real people sitting in a room making these tough decisions, and it’s not surprising their own prejudices and biases influence them.”

 

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Almost Half of Babies’ Heads Have Flat Spots

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Nearly half of two-month-old babies who were part of a recent study were found to have flat spots on their heads.  Researchers at Mount Royal University in Calgary believe that the culprit could be the widespread use of devices like swings and seats that hold babies in static positions, and the practice–recommended as the safest way to protect against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)–of laying babies to sleep on their backs.  More from NBC.com:

“The reason why we want to catch this early is because if we see children with flattened heads, sometimes there are changes in their facial features,” says Aliyah Mawji, a registered nurse at the university who led the study.

Pediatricians and pediatric nurses have noticed a big increase in the number of babies with flat spots on their heads – a condition known as positional plagiocephaly (“oblique head” in Greek).

Most experts say it’s due to advice to put babies to sleep on their backs – which in turn has slashed rates of sudden infant deaths syndrome or SIDS. But babies have big, heavy heads and weak little necks, which means their heads tend to roll to one side. Because their skulls are still soft, this can cause a flat spot….

…So [Mawji] and colleagues did a survey in four Calgary clinics where parents bring their babies – each in a different type of neighborhood. They looked at 440 babies aged 7 to 12 weeks. “We found that 46.6 percent actually had some form of plagiocephaly,” Mawji says.

A slight majority, 63 percent, had the flat spot on the right, and Mawji says that comes from the moment of birth.

“This is actually due to the birthing process itself,” Mawji says. “The majority of infants come out in such a way that their head is turned to the right.” This is in part because the mother’s pelvic bone and spine don’t move – they’re hard bones – so the more flexible baby ends up squished and twisted.

If a baby doesn’t move around enough, this flat spot can become more permanent. And if no one does anything, and the skull hardens, it could become really permanent.

Most of the cases Mawji saw were mild. And while she took care to get a range of family types into her study, she stresses that more research is needed to really show how common the issue is across the larger North American population. But her findings show it is probably more common than most people thought.

Experts recommend parents make a concerted effort to move their babies regularly, still putting them to sleep on their backs, but encouraging them to alternate which side of their head is against the mattress, seat, or swing.

Image: Sleeping baby, via Shutterstock

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Infant Life-Saving Drug Awaits FDA Approval

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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