“Stop talking and start doing.”
The 10-year-old Virginia girl who spoke these words to lawmakers helped increase funding for pediatric research this year with the passing of a new law, and Seattle Children’s Research Institute is celebrating the news.
“Pediatrics gets a very small share of the National Institutes of Health budget, certainly not proportional to the number of children in the United States,” says Jim Hendricks, PhD, president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “Any dollars that make their way to pediatric research may help our patients and other children around the world.”
A little girl makes a difference
Fifth grader Gabriella Miller became a widely celebrated childhood cancer activist during her 11 month battle with brain cancer. In the weeks before her death on Oct. 26, she urged lawmakers to increase support of pediatric research.
“We need action,” she said during an interview for a cancer awareness documentary. Read full post »
Parents can be understandably nervous when learning the potential side effects of a medication prescribed to their child, but those risks are often outweighed by the medication’s perceived benefit. Researchers at Seattle Children’s Hospital are studying psychiatric medications to make sure the medicines they prescribe do less harm than good.
Robert Hilt, MD, is a child psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who has successfully treated many children with psychiatric medications. Hilt began his medical career as a pediatrician and was initially reluctant towards prescribing psychiatric medications until he observed children benefiting from their use. His concern about the frequency of side effects from such treatments inspired him to lead a new study to measure the frequency and severity of side effects in children and adolescents taking psychiatric medicines.
“Typically, data reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on medication side effects is based on six to eight week studies using a single drug for a single problem,” Hilt said. “But kids often have multiple conditions and may use several medications for years. We wanted to know how many of those kids were having side effects.”
More medications can mean more side effects
Parents across the country, whose children were prescribed psychiatric medications, completed an online survey for Hilt’s study reporting potential drug effects including increased appetite, sedation, insomnia, stomachache or headache. Most participants – 84 percent – reported their children had some side effects. The number of effects, and overall severity of them, increased with the number of psychiatric medications the children were taking. Read full post »
No soon-to-be parent ever wants to think they may meet their baby too soon, but this is unfortunately the reality for the parents of about 50,000 infants who are born premature in the U.S. each year. Premature babies often face a host of medical problems and also are at a higher risk for long-term neurodevelopmental disabilities. In fact, prematurity accounts for about 45 percent of kids with cerebral palsy, 35 percent of kids with vision impairment, and 25 percent of kids with mental or hearing impairment.
Seattle Children’s neonatologist Sandra Juul, MD, PhD, suspects a hormone called erythropoietin (Epo) holds the key to reducing the negative effects that premature birth can have on the brain, and she has launched a national, multi-center trial to test this theory.
In the randomized, placebo-controlled study, called the PENUT (Preterm Epo Neuroprotection) Trial, 940 extremely preterm infants (born between 24-28 weeks gestation) will be enrolled at 18 research centers and 29 hospitals across the nation. The University of Washington is the primary enrolling site in Washington, but eligible patients who are then transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital will also be involved. The study is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
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In the sleep clinic, co-investigators Melinda Garberich, left, and Jennifer Patano are looking at how iron supplements affect quality of life.
Katie Davenport and the other nurses on the surgical unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital generally use oral or underarm thermometers to take patients’ temperatures. But in other areas of the hospital, clinicians use temporal thermometers, which take readings with a simple forehead swipe.
Parents who have seen the temporal thermometers in action often ask Katie and her colleagues why they can’t use this tool on the unit, since it can take a temperature without even waking a child.
The question got Davenport and her colleagues thinking.
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It is fascinating to watch an infant, who cannot yet talk or walk, play games on a tablet computer. But many parents wonder, should children so young be playing with these devices? Despite previous recommendations that children under age 2 should not use any media, a Seattle Children’s Research Institute expert now says children may benefit from playing with age-appropriate apps for 30 to 60 minutes each day.
In 2011, Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, was part of a panel of experts who supported a statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discouraging the use of media by children under 2 years old. But in a new opinion essay, Christakis says that statement should be updated to address new technologies – specifically, the iPad and other tablet computers.
“The AAP statement was in press before iPads existed,” Christakis says. “It treats all screens the same, but there are a lot of theoretical reasons to believe tablet computers are quite different and prior research on traditional media doesn’t apply.”
While he still believes young children should not watch television, Christakis says tablets may be harmless, or even beneficial to infants. Given most parents are ignoring the AAP’s recommendation and 90 percent of children under age 2 watch video screens regularly, Christakis says tablets with interactive apps could be a better alternative. Read full post »