UMEM Educational Pearls - Pediatrics

Inhaled nitrous oxide gas (N2O) or laughing gas, has a long history of use as anesthetics in dental and medical procedures, and can be used as a single agent for brief pediatric procedures. It has a short half-life of 5 minutes and is eliminated essentially non-metabolized through respirations.
Inhaled N2O has analgesic, anxiolytic, and amnestic properties. The mechanism of analgesia is hypothesized to be similar to that of opioids. Anxiolytic and sedative effect is similar to benzodiazepines and may involve GABA receptors.
The N2O is typically given as a mixture of 30% N2O with 70% O2, although 50:50 mixture is also safe. In the ED, it is usually given as monotherapy, as this meets criteria for minimal sedation. Nitrous oxide concentrations > 50% meet criteria for moderate sedation.
Complications are rare (most commonly, nausea/vomiting). Persistent use or abuse can be habit forming and has been associated with anemia and B12 deficiency. Rare side effects include asthma exacerbation, coughing, laryngospasm, cardiac events, and seizures. High nitrous concentrations can cause hypoxia and asphyxiation if sufficient oxygen isn’t supplied (FiO2 < 25%).

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From 2010-2014 ED visits in the US for injuries from trampoline parks (TPI) increased from 581 visits per year to 6932 visits per year. There was no change in the number of injuries related to home trampoline use. TPI were more likely to involve the lower extremity, be a dislocation and warrant admission and less likely to involve the head.

Bottom line: TPIs are increasing and have a different injury pattern compared to home trampolines.

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The pediatric epiglottis is more "U" shaped, often overlies the glottic opening, and is "less in line with the trachea."1 Because of this, it has traditionally been taught that a Miller blade is the ideal laryngoscope.

Varghese et al compared the efficacy of the Macintosh blade and the Miller blade when placed in the vallecula of children between the ages of 1 and 24 months. The blades provided similar views and suffered similar failure rates. When the opposite blade was used as a backup, it had a similar success rate as the opposing blade.2 Passi et al also compared these two blades, this time placing the Miller blade over the epiglottis. Again, similar views were achieved.3

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Although it is summer, preparations are being made for the 2016-2017 influenza season. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) no longer recommends the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV4). The American Academy of Pediatrics has supported this statement.

The LAIV4 (the only intranasal vaccine available) was offered to patients over the age of 2 years without respiratory problems. Observational studies during the 2013-2015 seasons have shown that the LAIV4 has an adjusted vaccine efficacy of 3% compared to 63% for the inactivated vaccine (intramuscular). Children who received the intranasal vaccine were almost 4 times more likely to get the flu compared to children who received the injection.

Bottom line: Only the intramuscular shot is recommended for this upcoming season. This is causing many primary care practices to scramble to obtain enough vaccine.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Hypertensive crisis in children

Keywords: hypertension, pediatrics (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/17/2016 by Jennifer Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jennifer Guyther, MD

Hypertension is defined as a systolic or diastolic blood pressure > 95% for age, sex and height based on repeated measurements. There is no numeric blood pressure cut of for defining hypertensive emergency in pediatrics. Use a reference book such as Harriet Lane Handbook to determine percentiles. The proper size BP cuff should be used: bladder width that is at least 40% of the arm circumference at the midpoint of the upper arm and a length that is 80-100% of the arm circumference.
Hypertensive crisis in children younger than 6 years may present with: irritability, feeding disturbance, vomiting, failure to thrive, seizure, altered mental status, or congestive heart failure.
Treatment in the Emergency Setting
-Lower the BP to < 95 percentile in children with HTN and no signs of end organ dysfunction
-Lower the BP to < 90 percentile in children with end organ dysfunction or co-morbid conditions
-Start with IV if able
-Few anti hypertensive medications have been studied adequately in children.
-The cited article has a table of antihypertensive medications with doses to be used in children, but only 4 have FDA approved labeling for pediatrics (hydralazine, fenoldopam, sodium nitroprusside and minoxidil)

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: BRUE Restructuring the way we think of ALTE

Keywords: Apparent life threatening event, ALTE, apnea, low risk infants, brief unexplained resolved events (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/20/2016 by Jennifer Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jennifer Guyther, MD

The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a new set of clinical practice guidelines to help better manage and think about patients who have experienced an ALTE (Apparent Life Threatening Event). The term BRUE (Brief Resolved Unexplained Event) will replace ALTE.

BRUE is defined as an event in a child younger than 1 year where the observer reports a sudden, brief and now resolved episode of one or more of: cyanosis or pallor; absent, decreased or irregular breathing, marked change in tone or altered level of responsiveness. A BRUE can be diagnosed after a history and physical exam that reveal no explanation.

BRUE can be classified as low risk or high risk. Those that can be categorized as low risk do not require the extensive inpatient evaluation that has often occurred with ALTE.

LOW risk BRUE:

Age > 60 days

Gestational age at least 32 weeks and postconceptual age of at least 45 weeks

First BRUE

Duration < 1 minute

No CPR required by a trained medical provider

No concerning historical features (outlined in the article)

No concerning physical exam findings (outlined in the article)

Recommendations for low risk BRUE:

-SHOULD: Educate, shared decision making, ensure follow up and offer resources for CPR training

-May: Obtain pertussis and 12 lead; briefly monitor patients with continuous pulse oximetry and serial observations

-SHOULD NOT: Obtain WBC, blood culture, CSF studies, BMP, ammonia, blood gas, amino acids, acylcarnitine, CXR, echocardiogram, EEG, initiate home cardiorespiratory monitoring, prescribe acid suppression or anti-epileptic drugs

-NEED NOT: obtain viral respiratory tests, urinalysis, glucose, serum bicarbonate, hemoglobin or neuroimaging, admit to the hospital solely for cardiorespiratory monitoring

*When looking at the evidence strength behind these recommendations, the only one that had a strong level was that you should not obtain WBC, blood culture or CSF

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Neonatal Jaundice (submitted by Brad Cotter, MD)

Posted: 4/29/2016 by Mimi Lu, MD (Emailed: 4/30/2016) (Updated: 4/30/2016)
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

Neonatal jaundice- Incidence ~85% of term newborns

Bili levels are EXPECTED to rise during first 5 days of life

Be aware of CONJUGATED hyperbilirubinemias (biliary atresia, infection)

Majority of cases due to increase in unconjugated (indirect) bilirubin 2/2 residual fHgb breakdown and insufficient capacity of hepatic conjugation

Severe hyperbilirubinemia (Tbili >20mg/dL) <2% of term infants 

Acute bilirubin encephalopathy(ABE)- Hypertonia, arching, opisthotonos, fever, high pitched cry


Kernicterus (5% of ABE)-CP, MR, auditory dysfunction, upward gaze palsy


When to refer for phototherapy/exchange transfusion

  1. Reference published guides (attached)
  2. Online calculator-


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Typically, if an infant or young child presents to the ED with concern for intracranial hemorrhage (ICH), CT is performed as a rapid diagnostic tool. Now that clinicians are more aware of the radiation associated with head CT, the possible use of ultrasound was studied. Ultrasound is commonly used in the neonatal population for detecting ICH. A study by Elkhunovich et al looked at children younger than 2 years who had cranial ultrasounds preformed. Over a 5 year period, 283 ultrasounds were done on patients between 0 to 485 days old (median 33 days). There were 39 bleeds detected. Ultrasound specificity and sensitivity was calculated by comparing the results with CT, MRI and/or clinical outcome. For significant bleeds, the sensitivity for ultrasound was 81%. The specificity for detecting ICH was 97%.

Only 2 patients in the study were older than 1 year. The proper windows are easiest to visualize in children younger than 6 months.

Bottom Line: The sensitivity of cranial ultrasound is inadequate to justify its use as a screening tool for detection of ICH in an infant with acute trauma, but it could be considered in situations when obtaining advanced imaging is not an option because of availability or patient condition.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: End tidal capnography to exclude DKA in children and adults

Keywords: End tidal capnography, diabetic ketoacidosis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/19/2016 by Jennifer Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jennifer Guyther, MD

A previous pearl has looked at serum HCO3 as a predictor of DKA (see pearl from 8/21/15). The article by Gilhotra looks at using end tidal CO2 (ETCO2) to exclude DKA. 58 pediatric patients were enrolled with 15 being in DKA. No patient with ETCO2 > 30 mmHg had DKA. Six patients with ETCO2 < 30 mmHg did not have DKA. Other studies done in children have shown similar results.

An article recently published by Chebl and colleagues examined patients older than 17 years with hyperglycemia. In this study, 71 patients were included with 32 having DKA. A ETCO2 >35 excluded DKA in this group while a level <22 was 100% specific for DKA.

Bottom line: ETCO2 >35 mmHg is a quick bedside test that can aid in the evaluation of hyperglycemic patients.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Perianal Group A Strep (submitted by Michele Callahan, MD)

Posted: 2/26/2016 by Mimi Lu, MD (Emailed: 2/27/2016) (Updated: 2/27/2016)
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

Perianal Group A Strep is an infectious dermatitis seen in the perianal region that is caused by Group A beta-hemolytic Strep. Children will have a characteristic rash with a sharply-demarcated area of redness, swelling, and irritation around the perianal region. There may be associated swelling and irritation of the vulva and vagina (in girls) and penis in boys. Patients can have bleeding or itching during bowel movements.

The age range is often <10 years of age. There is often an absence of fever or other systemic symptoms.The diagnosis can be confirmed by obtaining a Rapid Strep swab from the area of interest. You can also collect a bacterial culture of the area.

Treatment requires a 14 day course of penicillin. Amoxicillin (40 mg/kg/day divided TID) and clarithromycin are alternative treatments. The additional of topical bactroban (mupirocin) can be effective, but it should not be used as monotherapy. Re-occurrence is common, so close follow-up is key.


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There is not much data published on susceptabilities of urinary pathogens in infants. What resistance patterns are seen in infants < 2 months in gram negative uropathogens?

A retrospective study of previously healthy infants diagnosed with urinary tract infections in Jerusalem over a 6 year period examined this question. The standard treatment at this hospital included ampicillin and gentamycin for less than 1 month olds and ampicillin or cefuroxime for 1-2 month olds.

306 UTIs were diagnosed

74% were resistant to ampicillin

22% were resistant to cefazolin and augmentin

8% were resistant to cefuroxime

7% were resistant to gentamycin

Of the organisms cultured, 76% were E. coli and 14% were Klebsiella.

Bottom line: Know your local resistance patterns.

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ED study of 60 pediatric patients for procedural sedation

  • Fentanyl 1 mcg/kg was followed by 0.1 to 0.2 mg/kg of etomidate IV.
  • One dose of 0.2 mg/kg IV etomidate was adequate for 39/60 patients
  • 16.4% had respiratory depression
  • Desaturation occured in 23 patients
  • No patient required positive pressure ventilation
  • Average recovery in 21 minutes

Bottom line: Etomidate can achieve effective sedation in children for a short procedure. Although respiratory effects were noted, none of them required assisted ventilation.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: J-Tip: A Tool to Reduce Pain for Pediatric Venipuncture?

Keywords: Pediatrics, Venipuncture, J-Tip, Jet-Injected, Local anesthesia, Topical anesthesia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/2/2016 by Christopher Lemon, MD (Updated: 5/21/2024)
Click here to contact Christopher Lemon, MD

Many providers may not be familiar with the "J-Tip" (National Medical Products Inc, Irvine, CA) which is a needle-free jet injection system that uses air to push buffered lidocaine into the skin. In theory, it provides quick local anesthesia without a needle, making it an ideal tool to reduce the pain of pediatric venipuncture. Maybe you will consider giving it a try?...but what is the data for it?

Studies on the subject to date are few in number and focus on older kids or adolescents. One such example is from Spanos et al, 2008. They conducted a randomized control trial comparing J-Tip buffered lidocaine versus topical ELA-Max for local anesthesia before venipuncture in children 8-15 years old (N=70). They utilized a self-reported pain scoring system and showed a statistically significant reduction of pain immediately after venipuncture for the J-Tip group. 
More recently, Lunoe et al sought to assess J-Tip usage in a younger population, ages 1-6 years old (N=205). An observation-based pain scoring system was applied to video playback of the procedure as participants were too young to self-report pain scores. At the study institution, usual care for venipuncture was not ELA-Max-- it was topical vapocoolant (i.e."freezie" spray). Thus, participants were randomized to one of three groups: 1) Control: vapocoolant spray alone, 2) Intervention: loaded J-Tip with buffered lidocaine + a spray of normal saline solution (to simulate vapocoolant spray) , 3) Shamempty J-Tip  + vapocoolant spray. The empty J-Tip was used in the sham group to control for the sound/presence of the device because the scoring system does not differentiate pain from anxiety. They found a statistically significant reduction in venipuncture pain score when using the loaded J-Tip compared to the control or sham. There was no difference across groups in terms of venipuncture success rates or adverse events.
The latter study cites the price for each J-tip device between $0.98-$4.10. 

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Beware the inflatable bouncer

Keywords: inflatable, trauma, bounce house (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/17/2015 by Jennifer Guyther, MD (Emailed: 12/18/2015) (Updated: 12/18/2015)
Click here to contact Jennifer Guyther, MD

Inflatable bouncers are becoming more popular. A recent study looked at the patients who presented to an Italian emergency department from 2002-2013 after injuries sustained while using them.
-Males had a slight predominance over females
-Preschool children were the most commonly injured
-Upper extremity was injured more commonly than lower extremity
-Injury occurrence increased each year
Bottom line: Beware the inflatable bouncer and have a high suspicion for upper extremity injuries, especially in preschool children

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You have successfully identified a patient with intussusception. It has been successfully reduced with an air enema on the first attempt by radiology. What do you do with the patient afterwards? Do you place them in the hospital on the general surgery team, observe in the ED or discharge them home?
Recurrence can occur in up to 10% of patients. Absolute indications for admission include perforation, failed reduction and identification of a lead point that requires further investigation. Relative indications for admission include prolonged prodrome, bloody stools or dehydration.
A study in Pediatrics looked at 80 patients over a 2 year period with intussusception. 46 patients had been successfully reduced with an air enema. 30 patients were discharged from the emergency room. One patient returned and required a repeat enema reduction and 6 returned for viral related symptoms. 16 patients were observed and discharged within 23 hours. These patients had no interventions done during their observation period. Median length of stay for those discharged from the ED was 6.8 hours (compared to 5.4 hours for admitted patients). The cost of patients discharged from the emergency department was much less compared to those admitted.
This study suggests that after successful reduction in a well appearing child, a short post-reduction observation period may be safe. Other studies have suggested a 6-7 hour period of observation compared to 23 hours.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Shoulder Dislocations

Keywords: glenohumoral dislocations, anterior shoulder, orthopedics, pediatrics (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/6/2015 by Kathleen Stephanos, MD
Click here to contact Kathleen Stephanos, MD

- Anterior shoulder dislocations often require surgical management in young adults due to recurrence, but are less common in pediatric patients, particularly under age 10

- A study this year showed that 14-16 year olds are similar to 17-20 year olds in recurrence risk (around 38%- when non-operative management), and this is especially true of males.

- The recurrence rate is lower in the 10-13 age group, but there are also less dislocations in this group as well, making this group harder to assess

- Remember to consider both chronologic and bone age if you are deciding to refer a patient for outpatient surgery follow up, bone age is more accurate to determine healing and response to non-operative treatment

- Consider early referral for surgical management and counseling regarding recurrence risk in the 14-16 year age group after anterior shoulder dislocations

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) (submitted by Marina Kloyzner, MD)

Keywords: UTI, Fever, febrile, AAP, clinical practice guideline (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/23/2015 by Mimi Lu, MD
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

Fever is the most common presenting symptoms to pediatric emergency departments 10-20%

Of these, 2%-7% have a final diagnosis of a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Timely diagnosis and treatment of UTI is important in the pediatric population as it can progress to pyelonephrits which can lead to scarring of the renal parenchyma and end stage renal disease.
A challenge for the ED physician is whether or not to pursue the diagnosis of UTI in a febrile child with viral URI. However, multiple studies have shown that having a documented URI does not significantly decrease the chance of having a concomitant UTI. Furtheremore, there is a correletion betweent having RSV bronchiolitis with fever and a concurrent UTI.
The latest definition of UTI from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) requires both a urinalysis with pyuria or bacteria and a urine culture with more than 50,000 CFU/mL. 
Methods for collecting urine include urethral catheterization, suprapubic aspiration, clean catch collection and sterile urine bag.
Contamination rates for these methods are as follows:
  • Urine bag 46%
  • Clean catch 14-26%
  • Catheterization 12-14%
  • Suprapubic aspiration 1-9%
Because of the significant rates of contamination, catheterization and suprapubic aspiration are the recommended methods of obtaining urine in children younger than 3 years old.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Seat Belt Sign in Pediatrics

Keywords: Blunt abdominal trauma, seat belt sign, pediatrics (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/16/2015 by Jennifer Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jennifer Guyther, MD

Our suspicion of significant abdominal injury increases when there is bruising across the abdomen in adults after a motor vehicle collision, but what about in children? A PECRAN analysis may have provided us with the answer.

Of 3740 pediatric patients after motor vehicle collision, 16% had a seat belt sign. Seat belt sign was defined as a continuous area of erythema, ecchymosis or abrasion across the abdomen due to the seat belt. 1864 children had CT scans of the abdomen. Intra-abdominal injuries (IAI) were more common in those children with seat belt sign than those without (19% versus 12%). Those with seat belt sign had a greater risk of hallow viscous or mesenteric injuries. There was no increased risk of solid organ injury. 33% of patients with seat belt sign did not have complaints of abdominal pain or tenderness on initial exam (with a GCS of 14 or 15); 2% of these patients underwent operative intervention for their injuries.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Color-Coded Code Drugs: A Novel Idea in Pediatric Resuscitation

Keywords: pediatric, code, resuscitation, medication error (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/3/2015 by Christopher Lemon, MD
Click here to contact Christopher Lemon, MD

A group from Colorado identified the high-stress of pediatric resuscitation as a high-risk setting for possible medication error. As such, they performed a prospective, block-randomized, crossover study with two mixed teams of docs (ABEM certified) and nurses, managing 2 simulated peds arrest scenarios using either:

  1) conventional “draw-up and push” drug administration methods [control] or

  2) prefilled medication syringes labeled with color-coded volumes correlating to the weight-based Broselow Tape dosing [intervention].

The objective was to compare the time of preparation and administration of a medication, as well as to assess dosing errors. Participants were blinded to the purpose during recruitment but unblinded just prior to running the scenarios.

The scenarios included advanced airway management and hemodynamic life support efforts to care for an 8-year-old or 8-month-old manikin. The intervention group received a standard 3-minute tutorial on the use of prefilled color-coded syringes just prior to their scenario. After completing the first scenario, the groups switched, utilizing the other sim with the other method of medication administration. After a 4-16 week “wash out” period, the groups reconvened to reverse the medication administration technique across the same 2 scenarios.

Each Broselow tape color zone corresponds to a narrow range of weights. The authors opted to designate medication dosing errors >10% above or below the correct range as critical dosing errors.

The results? Median time to delivery of all conventionally administered medication doses was 47 seconds versus the prefilled color-coded administration system-- 19 seconds. The conventional administration system saw 17% of doses with critical errors versus none for the prefilled color-coded syringe group.

These prefilled color-coded syringes are not currently manufactured. Should they go into commercial production, the hope is that such syringes would be longer and more narrow than conventional syringes to effectively elongate each color-coded section (the delineations for red and purple on a standard syringe differ by as little as 1/8-3/32 of an inch if you want to make your own!-- see picture).


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Is there a set of criteria similar to the Ottawa Ankle or Knee Rule that can be applied to the wrist in children?
The Amsterdam Pediatric Wrist Rules are as follows:
-Swelling of distal radius
-Visible deformity
-Painful palpation of the distal radius
-Painful palpation at the anatomical snuff box
-Painful supination
A positive answer to any of these would indicate the need for an xray.

The study referenced attempted to validate these criteria. This criteria is inclusive of the distal radius in addition to the wrist. The sensitivity and specificity were 95.9% and 37.3%, respectively in children 3 years through 18 years. This model would have resulted in a 22% absolute reduction in xrays. In a validation study, 7/170 fractures (4.1%, 95% CI: 1.7- 8.3%) would have been missed using the decision model. The fractures that were missed were all in boys ages 10-15 and were all buckle fractures and one non displaced radial fracture.

Bottom line: This rule can serve as a guide for when to obtain an xray in the setting of trauma, but it is not perfect.

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