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Latest Posts

Wireless Transceivers Used To Monitor Breathing

A couple years ago, a team of researchers from the University of Utah managed to create a wireless network made from standard home automation devices to “see” through walls.

Now, the engineers are using the same technology to monitor breathing in patients with sleep apnea, post surgery, and babies at risk for SIDS. The system consists of Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

New Mothers Who Don’t Follow Breastfeeding Guidelines Cost Us Billions

Poor compliance with breastfeeding recommendations costs the nation at least $13 billion each year, with nearly all of the cost related to infant morbidity and mortality, according to a comprehensive economic analysis.

If 90% of new mothers followed guidelines for six months of exclusive breastfeeding for their children, an estimated 911 deaths would be prevented annually, said authors Melissa Bartick, MD, MSc, of Harvard Medical School, and Arnold Reinhold, MBA, of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, both in Boston. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Important reminders for parents of newborns

A big part of pediatrics is what we call “anticipatory guidance” and preventive medicine.  This is where we get to impart our wisdom on parents, particularly the vulnerable, first-time ones.  For them, everything is new, exciting and, yes, anxiety provoking.  We hope that we can teach and guide them to raise medically and psychologically healthy children.  One of the first and most important things we can do is stress the importance of immunizing children on time.  I know – I have talked about this ad nauseum!!  But that is because when newborns, children and, yes, adults, are not adequately immunized, they are at risk of developing serious illnesses.  As you may recall, I blogged a couple of months ago about the haemophilus influenzae outbreak in Minnesota, where several children became ill and one died.  Well, guess what?  Now there are cases of measles in my hometown, Rockville.  It appears that an unimmunized adult contracted it and has infected several others, including an 8 month old child who is too young to have received the routine immunization.
But, believe it or not, I am not blogging about immunizations today.  It appears that this is just an example of what happens years after a successful plan has been implemented.  Because we don’t see many of these infections anymore, we aren’t routinely reminded of the importance of preventing them.   We seem to have forgotten that the reason we don’t see many of these deadly infections is precisely because children have been vaccinated.  So … the vaccination rate drops, and as the vaccine rate drops, the risk of contracting one of these illnesses rises.  I can guarantee that if we had an epidemic of measles here, with kids dying, parents would be lining up to ensure their kids were adequately immunized.
Well … it’s the same with ALWAYS putting your infant to bed on the back.  Multiple studies have demonstrated a significant increase in the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) with placing your infant stomach-side down to sleep.  My recollection from when this recommendation first came out is that almost all parents put their infants on their backs to sleep.  Now, however, more and more parents are telling me that they are putting their infants on their stomachs to sleep because they sleep better.  Or, they are watched by a grandparent during the day, who puts them to sleep on their stomachs.  Well … it is even worse to put an infant on its stomach sometimes rather than always (not that I am EVER recommending stomach sleeping).
A study published in this month’s journal, Pediatrics, evaluated 333 infants in Germany over a 3 year period.  As noted in previous studies, those who were placed prone to sleep were at greater risk of dying from SIDS, particularly those who were not used to sleeping prone.  Other factors which increased the risk of SIDS were covers, sleeping at a friend or relative’s house, and sleeping in a living room.  The only factor which decreased the risk of SIDS was the use of a pacifier at night.   With such compelling evidence which supports many other studies on SIDS risk factors, there is no reason to place our infants on their stomachs to sleep – ever.    This includes when they are with any caretaker, including grandparents, nannies, and other relatives.
So let’s not become complacent about treatments that work.  Continue to immunize.  Continue to place infants on their backs to sleep.

Top Five Pediatric Stories of 2008

By Dr. Stacy Beller Stryer, M.D.

Reflecting on the past year’s successes and failures as a parent is an important and worthwhile exercise to do each January. In previous January blogs, I have published my own list of resolutions for the New Year to help you get your own creative juices flowing. This year, however, I have decided to talk about the top five news stories related to pediatrics in 2008.

The top news story in 2008 is the election of Barack Obama as our next President. President-elect Obama wants affordable, comprehensive and portable health care for everybody . His goal is for all uninsured children to be able to sign up for healthcare plans. He wants to expand Medicaid and state health insurance programs, and to develop a government-funded health insurance plan that will compete with other companies. President-elect Obama also wants comprehensive health education taught in schools.

A second important pediatric-related news story is the recall of cough and cold medicines, including decongestants, expectorants and antitussives, for children, particularly those ages 2 years and less. The reason for the recall is because studies have found that the risks of dangerous side-effects far outweigh the benefits. A study which came out last year from the Centers from Disease Control found that over 1500 children under age 2 visited the emergency room for serious side effects due to taking cold medicines in 2004 and 2005, and that 3 children died. In addition, insufficient studies have evaluated the efficacy and side effects in children. Actually, these medicines were previously developed based on studies done with adults.

Another important finding concerns the use of cigarettes. If you smoke and light up that cigarette only when you are outside your house or when your children aren’t home, you may still be harming them (OK – this was reported in the January issue of Pediatrics but I heard about it December 31st!). According to a recent study published in Pediatrics , this “third-hand smoke” causes toxins to remain everywhere, such as on clothes, hair, couch cushions, and carpets, for extended periods of time. The toxins include heavy metals, carcinogens, and radioactive materials that children may ingest, especially if they are crawling on the carpets. If this isn’t enough of a reason to quit smoking, I don’t know what is!

Unlike some other fatal illnesses, researchers have been able to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) significantly over the years when they discovered that placing an infant to sleep on his back significantly reduced the risk. Another study published last October in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine that placing a fan in an infant’s room during sleep decreased the risk of SIDS by 72%.

The last news story which made significant changes in pediatric practice this past year concerns the identification and treatment of elevated cholesterol levels in toddlers and children. In July, the journal Pediatrics published revised guidelines for pediatricians, including initiation of lipid screening in children, beginning at age 2 years, in those who have a family history of high cholesterol or early heart disease, or in those who are overweight, have diabetes, or smoke. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also begun to recommend a decrease in the fat content of milk in overweight children beginning at age 1 year. Finally, they now recommend medication as early as age 10 years in certain children with elevated lipid levels despite exercise and diet change.

There are many other important findings from 2008, but I thought that these were among the most important. Now stop reading and get back to your New Year’s Resolutions for 2009!

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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