UMEM Educational Pearls - By Don Van Wie

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Noninvasive Ventilation in the Pediatric ED

Keywords: Noninvasive, Ventilation, Pediatrics (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/27/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Noninvasive ventilation use in children has been shown in some trials to be a useful tool to avoid intubation in children with asthma.

Since children with asthma who are intubated have a much higher risk for complications including pneumotharaces and pneumomediastinum this can be a very useful tool.

Bi-Pap is usually started with typical settings of 10 for IPAP and 5 for EPAP and can be titrated up as tolerated to levels of up to 25/20 cm H2O and can be delivered with a set rate or a back up rate.

Albuterol and nebulized epiephrine may be delivered through newer BiPAP machines.  

Signs that BiPAP is working include decreased Respiratory Rate, decreased retractions and accesory muscle use, improved oxygenation saturation

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Deaths and OTC Cough and Cold Meds

Keywords: Pediatric cough and cold meds, death (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/25/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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  • Increasing use of OTC meds is a worldwide occurence with $3.5 billion each year spent in the US.
  • About 4 million children younger than 12 yrs are treated with these meds each week in the US.
  • In 2007 the FDA recommended that the use of OTC cold meds (antihistamines-brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, doxylamine; antitussive-dextromethorphan; expectorant-guaifenesin; and decongestants-pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine) be prohibited in children < 6 yrs.
  • A recent review of 103 childhood deaths due to OTC meds found that most deaths were from product misuse rather than adverse effects resulting from recommended doses particularly when the product was used with the intent to sedate a child. 
  • Children less than 2 years old were most susceptible to death using these products which is why manufacturers voluntarily withdrew the use of OTC meds in this age group.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Hyperthermia

Keywords: Heat Stroke, Hyperthermia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/14/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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As we head into the warmer months we should remember that every year there are reports of a toddler left in his car seat for 15 min who comes in uresponsive with hyperthermia. 

Heat related illnesses are a continuum from heat cramps to heatstroke.  The hallmark of heatstroke is hyperthermia with mental status changes and when identified rapid cooling must be initiated.  Mortality for heatstroke is reported as high as 80%. 

Children are more susceptible to heat stroke because of a greater surface area to body mass ratio, higher metabolic rates, less developed sweating mechanisms, and inability to always remove themselves from the hot environment.

The quickest and easiest way to cool a conscious patient is by evaporation.  Changing water from a liquid to a vapor is an endothermic process.  Removal of all clothes, followed by misting or wiping with tepid water of the entire skin is very effective.  Having a fan pointed at the child can enhance this method.   

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Misdiagnosis of Appendicitis in the Young Child

Keywords: Appendicitis, Pediatrics (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/13/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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  • For children under 5 years of age the rate of missing an appendicitis remains very high.  (57%-67%)
  • The rate of misdiagnosis increases as the age decreases. 
  • In cases of missed appendicitis the most common incorrect diagnosis is gastroenteritis.
  • Think twice before you label vomiting alone, or diarrhea alone as gastroenteritis.
  • If an appendicitis is missed there is an increased risk of perforation, abscess formation, and higher morbidity. 


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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Seizure Pearls

Keywords: pediatric seizures (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/28/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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  • Pediatric seizures are common and 4-6% of all children will have a seizure by the time they are 16 years old.
  • Afebrile neonatal seizures require an evaluation of electrolytes, glucose, calcium, magnesium, LP, blood and urine cultures.
  • Simple Febrile seizures usually do not require any lab testing or admission if the child appears well.
  • Dilution of formula with too much water is a common cause of hyponatremic seizures in infants.  (Treat with 3ml/kg of 3% hypertonic saline)
  • Complex febrile seizures have a higher risk for meningitis than simple febrile seizures, so perform an LP, give antibiotics, and admit.
  • When intubating for Status Epilepticus consider using thiopental or propofol for induction given their antiepileptic properties.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Bradycardia

Keywords: Pediatric Bradycardia, heart blocks (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/30/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Bradycardia in children is most often caused by hypoxemia but can also be caused by acidosis, elevated ICP, vagal stimulation, heart blocks or overdoses. 

First degree heart block in otherwise healthy children can be caused by infectious diseases, myocarditis, rheumatic fever, Lyme disease and congenital heart disease.

Third degree heart block can be congenital, caused by maternal connective tissue disorders such as Lupus, or may result from cardiac surgery.

Any infant presenting with a third degree heart block should have an investigation for neonatal lupus. 

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Arrhythmias - atrial fibrillation

Keywords: pediatric atrial fibrillation, pediatric arrhythmias (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/23/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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The most common arrhythmias in children presenting to the ED are:

  • Sinus tachycardia (50%)
  • SVT (13%)
  • Bradycardia (6%)
  • Atrial Fibrillation (4.6%)

Atrial fibrillation in children is irregularly irregular with disorganized atrial activity with atrial rates ranging from 350-600 BPM. 

Children at increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation include those with underlying structural heart defects and hyperthyroidism.

Hemodynamically stable children have several treatment options including digoxin, amiodarone, propranolol, esmolol, or procainamide for ventricular rate control.

Hemodynamically unstable children need immediate synchronized cardioversion with 0.5 - 1 J/kg.  (don't forget light sedation.)


Sacchetti A, Moyer V, Baricella R, et al. Primary cardiac arrhythmias in children. Pediatr Emerg Care 1999;15:95-98

Doniger S. Pediatric Dysrhythmias. Pediatric Emergency Medicine Reports. Sept 2008. Vol 13, No 9 (This was edited by a UMMS Combined EM/PEDS graduated Dr. Jim Colletti who is Associate Residency Director, Emergency Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN.)

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric SVT

Keywords: SVT, pediatric tachycardia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/16/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Emailed: 1/17/2009) (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Six indications that would lead you to suspect SVT in children:

  • history incompatible (no history fever, volume loss, hemorrhage or pain
  • P waves absent /abnormal
  • HR does not vary with activity
  • Abrubt rate changes
  • Infants : rate usually >220
  • Children : rate usually >180

Remember in the stable child treat withe Adenosine 0.1mg/kg rapid IV push followed by rapid flush.

In the unstable child treat with synchronized cardioversion 0.5 -1 Joules/kg.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Burns

Keywords: Pediatric Burns (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/10/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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  • Burn injuries are common in children and are the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injuries in children age 0 to 18 yrs, only behind MVCs and drowning.
  • Burns greater than 20% TBSA require agressive fluid resuscitation. Lactated Ringer's is the most commonly used fluid. 
  • Parkland Burn Formula:  LR over 24 hours = 4mlxkgx %BSA burned. 1st half over 1st 8 hours, 2nd half over subsequent 16 hours.  Add maintenance fluids to this amount for patients < 30 kg.
  • Urine output is the best way to assess adequate fluid resuscitation.  Place a foley and goal output is 1-2 ml/kg/hr in children.  (0.5 to 1 ml/kg/hr in adults)
  • Oligoanalgesia is very common in pediatric patients.  Use morphine 0.1 mg/kg IV/IM or Oxycodone 0.1 mg/kg po.
  • 6% of burned children < 12 years old are victims of abuse.  So keep a high index of suspicion in children with burns. 

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Ketamine for Septic Work Ups

Keywords: pediatric procedual sedation, ketamine (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/3/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Next time you have to do a full septic work up on a 2 month old with a fever of 104 F consider giving Ketamine 3mg/kg IM before even starting.  Then you can obtain your cath urine, IV, and LP with a calm pain free patient!!

Ketamine induces a catatonic state that provides sedation, analgesia, and amnesia.  It does not affect pharyngeal-laryngeal reflexes and the patient maintains a patent airway.  This makes it very useful when fasting is not assured.   

Route          Onset          Duration             Dose

  IM            3-5 min         20-30min         3-5 mg/kg

  IV             1 min            5-10 min          1-2 mg/kg

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Propofol for Pediatric Procedural Sedation

Keywords: Proprofol,pediatrics,pediatric procedural sedation (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/26/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Propofol is an IV hypnotic that is made in a soy-based emulsion containing soybean oil, egg lecithin, and glycerol.  It has a very rapid onset time (10-50 seconds) and a brief duration of action making it ideal for ED sedation.  Children have a more rapid metabolism of propofol than adults.  Propofol has been shown to be safe and effective for Pediatric ED sedation in several studies.  

Pearls on Propofol

  • Dosing is 1mg/kg bolus than 0.5 mg/kg IV q 1-2 min until desired sedation occurs
  • Due to high lipid concentration can cause pain at injection site in up to 70% of patients.  This can be prevented by applying a rubber tourniquet well above IV site and injecting 0.5 mg/kg of lidocaine 30 seconds before injecting the propofol. 
  • Use is contraindicated in those with allergies to Eggs, Soy, or sulfites, or those with mitochondrial disorders
  • PRIS (Propofol Infusion Syndrome) was described in 1992 with case reports of children dying due to metabolic acidosis, rhabdomyolysis, and refractory heart failure when receiving high doses (>4mg/kg/h) for >48 hours.  And it is more associated with children < 4 years old. 
  • So while safe for pediatric procedural sedation don't use propofol as a drip for intubated children.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Bronchiolitis

Keywords: RSV,Bronchiolitis,apnea (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/19/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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  • Bronchiolitis is the most common lower respiratory tract disease in infants, and RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) bronchiolitis is the leading cause of hospitalization in infants.  It will infect 90% of children by 2 years of life.
  • Bronchiolitis "season" in the US is typically December to March but it does occur year round. 
  • Pathology is caused by respiratory epithelial cell death that results in inflammation, edema, smooth muscle contraction, bronchoconstriction and mechanical obstruction by cellular debris and mucus plugging.
  • History that suggest Bronchiolitis is cough, rhinorrhea, fever
  • Most common PE findings are runny nose, tachypnea, wheezing, cough, crackles, use of accessory muscles,  and/or nasal flaring.
  • Respiratory distress, dehydration, sepsis, and RSV associated apnea are feared severe complications.
  • RSV associated apnea may be the presenting symptom in some infants. 
    • Infants at greatest risk for this are younger (usually < 3 months), hx of prematurity, hx of apnea of prematurity, and those who are early on in the illness.


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Category: Pediatrics

Title: SIDS

Keywords: SIDS (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/28/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is defined as the sudden death of an infant younger than 1 year that remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including the performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the scene of death, and review of the clinical history.

SIDS is the single most common cause of death in infants aged 1 mo to 1 yr

Education is key for prevention of these tragic events:

Following the "Back to Sleep" campaign, federal SIDS researchers have conducted annual surveys to examine how infant sleep practices and SIDS rates have changed.  The rate of prone sleeping for infants decreased from approximately 75% in 1992 to a low of 11.3% in 2002

Since 1992, SIDS rates have fallen approximately 58%. In 2002, the National Center for Health Statistics reported a total of 2295 SIDS deaths nationwide for a SIDS rate in the United States of 0.51 per 1000 live births.

Bed-sharing may lead to compromise of the infants' airway because the infant may be suffocated by soft, loose bedding or a sleeping adult.

Cosleeping on a couch or sofa is associated with an unusually high risk for SIDS and should be avoided.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Bacterial Conjunctivitis in Children

Keywords: bacterial conjunctivitis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/31/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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How do we know if we really need to put all those red eyes sent in from daycare centers and schools on antibiotics? The following study shows us why.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis in Children

  • Prospective study in a children’s hospital ED
  • Conjunctival swabs for culture were obtained from patients aged 1 mo - 18 yrs presenting with red or pink eye and/or the diagnosis of conjunctivitis
  • 111 patients enrolled over one year
  • Mean age of 33.2 mos, 55% male
  • 87 patients (78%) had positive bacterial cultures
    • Nontypeable H influenzae = 82%
    • S pneumoniae = 16%
    • Staphylococcus aureus = 2.2%
  • The combination of a history of gluey or sticky eyelids and the physical finding of mucoid or purulent discharge had a post-test probability of 96% that the infection was bacterial.(So when both these are present you definitely should treat)
  • And since the majority of these children (78%) had positive cultures even if they only had a pink eye it is reasonable to use empirical ophthalmic antibiotic therapy in children who present with the complaint of a pink eye.


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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Erythema Infectiosum

Keywords: Erythema Infectiosum,parvovirus B-19 (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/24/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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With the cooler weather on us all our favorite viral infections will start to appear.  Included in this is the "slapped - cheek disease" Erythema infectiosum. 

Erythema Infectiosum

  • An acute viral illness caused by parvovirus B-19
  • Usually is seen in the winter and spring months
  • Presents with mild fever, itching, headache, and arthralgias
  • Usually have an erythematous, erysipeloid rash on the cheeks (slapped look) and a reticular rash (lace-like) on the arms
  • No test are needed
  • Management is supportive
  • Children with chronic hemolytic anemias can develop an aplastic crisis from this infection


Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Discitis

Keywords: Pediatric Discitis, epidural absces (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/10/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Pediatric Discitis is an intervertebral disc infection due to hematogenous spread to vascular channels in cartilage that disappear later in life.  In 1/3 of patients it is caused by S. aureus.

Presenting Features

  • age <2.5 years (75%) 
  • Refuse or difficult to walk  (56%)
  • Back/neck pain (25-45%) ( 100%>3years)
  • Hx of fever (28-47%)
  • lumbaosacral area (78-82%)
  • Mean ESR 39-42
  • WBC> 10,500 (50%)
  • Abnormal MRI 90-100 %

Management is to exclude more severe disease (osteomylelitis,abscess, tumor) and antibiotic use is debatable.  Remember children this age rarely complain of back pain. 


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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Popsicle Panniculitis

Keywords: popsicle panniculitis, cold panniculitis, child abuse (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/3/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Popsicle or cold panniculitis is an inflammation of the subcutaneous fat after prolonged exposure to cold.  It is thought to occur more often in infants and young children because they have a higher percentage of saturated fatty acids than older children and adults.  Pediatric patients may present to you to be evaluated/ruled out for abuse by social workers, schools, or police and if you have the correct history it is easy to dispo quickly.

Clinical Features of Popsicle Panniculitis

  • Absence of systemic signs
  • Minimal pain, with or without
  • Skin is red to purplish, indurated, may have discrete nodules or plaques
  • perioral location for popsicles, but may occur at any other area of skin exposure
  • resolves in 2-3 weeks without scarring
  • hyperpigmentation may persist
  • arises within hours to to 1-2 days after exposure to a cold object

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Oxycodone v. Codeine for Fracture Pain in Children

Keywords: oxycodone pediatrics, codeine pediatrics, fracture pain management (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/19/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Oxycodone v. Codeine for Fracture Pain Management in Children

  • When choosing an oral narcotic to give a child for fracture analgesia oxycodone is a better choice than codeine. 
  • In this study children were randomized to recieve equianalgesic oral doses of either oxycodone (0.2 mg/kg, max 15 mg) or codeine (2mg/kg, max 120 mg) for forearm fractures
  • Children given oxycodone reported a pain score significantly lower than children given codeine
  • And children given oxycodone had less itching than those given codeine

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: When the Sting REALLY hurts!!

Keywords: Pediatric Anaphylaxis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/5/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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When the Sting REALLY hurts!!

  • Anaphylaxis is an acute, potentially life-threatening problem, with multisystemic manifestations.(Remember 2 or more organ systems are required by definition!)
  • In Children, foods (Milk, Eggs, Wheat, and Soy (MEWS) are the most common allergens
  • But...peanuts and fish are among the most potent!!
  • Also children can develop anaphylaxis from the fumes of cooking fish or residual peanut in a candy bar.
  • Other common causes are preservatives, medications (antibiotics), insect venom (bee stings!!!!!!)

Remember the dose of Epinephrine is : 

0.01 mg/kg or 0.01 mL/kg of 1:1,000 IM or

0.01 mg/kg IV or 0.1 mL/kg/dose 1:10,000 IV

to the adult dose or 0.3 mg 


Epipen Jr = 0.15 mg (use for < 30 Kg)

Epipen = 0.3 mg (use for > 30 Kg)

To show patients an instructional video click on the referenced link.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Single Dose Killers

Posted: 8/30/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Many things can be fatal with only one pill or sip for a young child.  One teaspoonful of Oil of wintergreen (5ml) contains about 7000 mg of salicylate (the equivalent of about 21 adult aspirin).  It would take only one swallow of Oil of wintergreen to be lethal for a young child.

Other Potential single dose killers for your Pediatric patients:


Ethylene glycol


Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Cyclic antidepressants







Hydrofluoric acid
Ammonia fluoride/bifluoride
Boric acid
Selenious acid
Disk batteries


Eucalyptus oil
Pennyroyal oil
Oil of wintergreen










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