UMEM Educational Pearls - Pediatrics

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Home medication errors in children

Keywords: Medications, overdose, pediatric, over the counter (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/21/2014 by Jenny Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD

This study looked at the National Poison Database System with regards to out of hospital medication errors in children under the age of 6 over a 10 year period.
-This type of error occurs to 1 child every 8 minutes.
-Analgesics were most common followed by cough and cold preparations, antihistamines and antibiotics.
-27% of errors were due to being given the medication twice, 17.8% were the incorrect dose and 8.2 % were confusion over units of measure.
-Errors occur more often during winter months.
-Serious adverse affects were rare.
Bottom line: Make sure to review the appropriate dose and interval of all medications, including common over the counter supplements

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Emergency Physician Bedside Ultrasound for Appendicitis


To reduce length of stay, improve patient care, and reduce radiation exposure in young patients.


Start with pain medication so you get a better study. (Consider intranasal fentanyl for quicker pain relief and diagnostics in pediatrics.) Study results are also improved with a slim body habitus.

Place the patient supine

Use a high-frequency linear array transducer

Start at the point of maximal tenderness in the RLQ

Transverse and longitudinal planes "graded compression" to displace overlying bowel gas which usually has peristalsis (See Sivitz, et al article for images of "graded compression")

Appendix is usually anterior to the psoas muscle and iliac vein and artery as landmarks

Measure from outer wall to outer wall at the most inflamed portion of the appendix (usually distal end)


Positive study:

A non-compressible, blind-ending tubular structure in the longitudinal axis >6 mm without peristalsis (see second image above with 8.3 mm diameter measurement)

A target sign in the transverse view (see first image above)

Additional suggestive findings: appendiceal wall hyperemia with color Doppler, appendicoliths hyperechoic (white) foci with an anechoic (black) shadow, periappendiceal inflammation or free fluid

Negative study:

Non-visualization of the appendix with adequate graded compression exam in the absence of free fluid or inflammation.

Limitations for visualization and possible false negative result:

Retrocecal appendix and perforated appendix are difficult to visualize with US.


US has good specificity (93% in Sivitz et al article), but limited sensitivity (85% in Sivitz et al article), so trust your clinical judgement. You may need a MRI (pregnant/pediatrics) or CT as they have improved, but not perfect sensitivity.

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1411081818_Appendicitis_Blind_End_Pouch_US.jpg (1,372 Kb)

1411081818_Target_Sign_US_Appendix.jpg (1,461 Kb)

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Lactate use in pediatrics

Keywords: Lactate (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/17/2014 by Jenny Guyther, MD (Updated: 4/22/2024)
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD

The world of pediatrics is still working on catching up to adult literature in terms of lactate utilization and its implications.  The study referenced looked at over 1000 children admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. Lactate levels were collected  2 hours after admission and a mortality risk assessment was calculated within 24 hours of admission (PRISM III).  Results showed that the lactate level on admission was significantly associated with mortality after adjustment for age, gender and PRISM III score.

Bottom line:  In your critically ill pediatric patient, lactate may be a useful predictor of mortality.  

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Pneumonia

Posted: 10/10/2014 by Rose Chasm, MD (Updated: 4/22/2024)
Click here to contact Rose Chasm, MD

  • For uncomplicted community acquired pneumonia which is treated as an outpatient, high dose amoxicillin (80-90mg/kg/day) is the first-line antibiotic of choice.
  • Macrolides and third-generation cephalosporins are acceptable alternatives, but are not as effective due to pneumococcal resistance and lower systemic absorption, respectivley.
  • Hospitalization should be strongly considered for children younger than 2 months or premature due to an increased risk for apnea.
  • Patients hospitalized only for pneumonia, should be treated with ampicillin while those who are septic should be treated with a combination of vancomycin along with a second- or third- generation cephalosporin.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Antibiotics for pediatric bloody stools? (submitted by Jonathan Hoover, MD)

Keywords: E. coli, O0157:H7, hematochezia, diarrhea (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/26/2014 by Mimi Lu, MD
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

There are numerous different causes of pediatric hemorrhagic diarrhea. Consider a pediatric patient with bloody diarrhea as being at risk for developing hemolytic uremic syndrome. Most cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome are caused by O157:H7 strains of E Coli that release Shiga-like toxin from the gut. Systemic release of the toxin causes microvascular thromboses in the renal microvasculature. The characteristic microangiopathic hemolysis results with anemia, thrombocytopenia and peripheral schistocytes seen on laboratory studies, in addition to acute renal failure.

Antibiotics have been controversial in the treatment of pediatric hemorrhagic diarrhea due to concern that they worsen toxin release from children infected with E Coli O157:H7 and thus increase the risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome. Numerous previous studies have provided conflicting data regarding the true risk (1). A recent prospective study showed antibiotic treatment increases the risk (2). Most recommendations warn against using antibiotics to treat pediatric hemorrhagic diarrhea unless the patient is septic.


Bottom line: Avoid treating pediatric hemorrhagic diarrhea with antibiotics

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: A young asthmatic with a bad day: Visual Diagnosis

Keywords: Macklin Phenomenon, asthma, pneumomediastinum (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/22/2014 by Ashley Strobel, MD
Click here to contact Ashley Strobel, MD


16 yo M with pleuritic right upper chest pain that started today.  He is suffering from an asthma exacerbation currently in the setting of URI with cough.  He is afebrile, tachycardic to 140-150s, respiratory rate 20, and sats 98% on room air.  ECG was performed which incidentally diagnosed this patient WPW and he went for ablation as an outpatient.  His chest x-ray showed:

Besides a bad day, what do we call this chest x-ray finding?

Show Answer

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1409221530_IMG_5821.jpg (1,850 Kb)

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Cervical spine clearance in pediatrics

Keywords: cervical spine, pediatrics, NEXUS (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/19/2014 by Jenny Guyther, MD (Updated: 4/22/2024)
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD

The NEXUS criteria is widely applied to adults who present with neck pain due to trauma.  While this study did include about 2000 pediatric patients, there were not enough young children to draw definitive conclusions.  For more information on the evaluation of the cervical spine, see Dr. Rice's pearl from 9/7/12.  A 2003 study piloted an algorithm for cervical spine clearance in children < 8 years.

Patients were spine immobilized if: unconscious, abnormal neurological exam, history of transient neurological symptoms, significant mechanism of injury, neck pain, focal neck tenderness or inability to assess based on distracting injury (extremity or facial fractures, open wound, thoracic injuries, or abdominal injuries), physical exam findings of neck trauma, unreliable exam due to substance abuse, significant trauma to the head or face, or inconsolable children.

When the 2 pathways (see attached) were implemented, there was a decrease in time to cervical spine clearance.  There were no missed injuries in the study period prior to implementation of the pathway or once it was implemented.  There was no significant difference in the amount of xrays, CT scans or MRIs.

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1409192317_Cspine_clearence_pathway.docx (52 Kb)

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Enterovirus D68

Posted: 9/12/2014 by Rose Chasm, MD (Updated: 4/22/2024)
Click here to contact Rose Chasm, MD

  • The human enterovirus D68 is a rare virus closely related to the rhinovirus which causes the common cold.  However, there have been recent outbreaks throughout the midwest and the areas are rapidly expanding.
  • Mild symptom onset of rhinorrhea and cough rapidly progress to hypoxia and respiratory distress.
  • Key features are the rapid progression, presence of wheezing even without a history of reactive airway disease, and typically an absence of consolidation on chest XR.
  • Children under 5 years and those with asthma are at the greatest risk for respiratory failure.
  • There are a limited number of labs in the US which test specifically for EV-D68. At UMMC, the Luminex respiratory virus panel can be ordered using the kit form which includes a flocked swab and viral transport media.  Unfortunately, the panel does not differentiate between the closely related enterovirus and rhinovirus. 
  • There is no definitive cure, rather only supportive care and low-threshold for admission/observation for high risk patients.

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6-7% of kids presenting with upper respiratory symptoms will meet the definition for ABS.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reviewed the literature and developed clinical practice guideline regarding the diagnosis and management of ABS in children and adolescents.

The AAP defines ABS as: persistent nasal discharge or daytime cough > 10 days OR a worsening course after initial improvement OR severe symptom onset with fever > 39C and purulent nasal discharge for 3 consecutive days.

No imaging is necessary with a normal neurological exam.

Treatment includes amoxicillin with or without clauvulinic acid (based on local resistance patterns) or observation for 3 days.

Optimal duration of antibiotics has not been well studied in children but durations of 10-28 days have been reported.

If symptoms are worsening or there is no improvement, change the antibiotic.

There is not enough evidence to make a recommendation on decongestants, antihistamines or nasal irrigation.


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Some Pearls concerning Strep Throat in Kids:
  • Only treat strep pharyngitis after confirmed via rapid antigen test or culture
  • Remember the rapid antigen test has high specificity, but low sensitivity.  All negative rapid antigen tests should be followed up with a confirmatory culture
  • Traditionally, strep pharyngitis was treated with penicillin V, 250mg PO tid for children and 500 mg tid for adolescents. This was then changed to bid dosing.
  • Now, consider treating with amoxicillin, 50mg/kg once daily (max 1000mg). Once daily dosing and better taste improve compliance 

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Acute Otorrhea in Children with PE tubes

Keywords: tympanostomy tubes, antibiotics, otorrhea (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/18/2014 by Jenny Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD

Up to 26% of patients with tympanostomy tubes (PE tubes) can suffer from clinically manifested otorrhea.  This is thought to be the result of acute otitis media that is draining through the tube. Previous small studies suggested that antibiotic ear drops are as effective or more effective and with less side effects for its treatment.  This study compared treatment with antibiotic/glucocorticoid ear drops (hydrocortisone-bacitracin-colistin) to oral Augmentin (30 mg/kg/TID) to observation for 2 weeks.

Study population: Children 1-10 years with otorrhea for up to 7 days in the Netherlands
Exclusion criteria included: T > 38.5 C, antibiotics in previous 2 weeks, PE tubes placed within 2 weeks, previous otorrhea in past 4 weeks, 3 or more episodes of otorrhea in past 6 months
Patient recruitment: ENT and PMD approached pt with PE tubes and they were told to call if otorrhea developed and a home visit would be arranged
Study type: open-label, pragmatic, randomized control trial
Primary outcome: Treatment failure defined as the presence of otorrhea observed otoscopically
Secondary outcome: based on parental diaries of symptoms, resolution and recurrence over 6 months

Results: After 2 weeks, only 5% of the ear drop group compared to 44% of the oral antibiotic group and 55% of the observation group still had otorrhea.  There was not a significant difference between those treated with oral antibiotics and those that were observed.  Otorrhea
lasted 4 days in the ear drop group compared to 5 days with oral antibiotics and 12 days with observation (all statistically significant).

Key differences:  The antibiotic dosing and choice of ear drops are based on availability and local organism susceptibility.

Bottom line:  For otorrhea in the presence of PE tubes, ear drops (with a non-aminoglycoside antibiotic and a steroid) may be more beneficial than oral antibiotics or observation.

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  • Over the last decade, multiple studies have shown that pain and sedation in children can be easily and quickly treated via intransal administration of traditional drugs.
  • Inexpensive atomizers are used to quickly administer medications which are absorbed through the mucosal surface and rapidly delivered to the bloodstream and CNS with equivalent effects to intravenous administration.
  • Considerations include using concentrated forms as volumes greater than 1mL per nostril may over-saturate the mucosa and drip out rather than be fully absorbed.
  • The few side effects included cough, vocal cord irritation, and laryngospasm; but pre-treating with a single puff of lidocaine spray minimizes them and has been found to enhance sedative effects.
  • Fentanyl, 2mcg/kg for pain
  • Midazolam, 0.2 - 0.5mg/kg for sedation and antiepileptic.
  • Ketamine and Dexmedetomidine have also been used with success, but standardized doses are still being studied. 

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Indeterminate ultrasound results in kids

Keywords: Ultrasound, pediatrics, appendicitis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/20/2014 by Jenny Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD


Ultrasound is gaining favor as a radiation free tool for evaluating appendicitis.  However, we are all faced with a challenge when the ultrasound is unable to visualize the appendix. What is the next step? Do we CT these kids? Observe them?  MRI them? Admit to surgery? Certainly some of these decisions are made by the institution where you practice, but one study looked at the clinical outcomes in kids where the "appendix was not fully visualized."
 -Retrospective chart review in a tertiary Canadian hospital of kids 2-17 who had US for suspected appendicitis (968 pts)
 -526 kids had incompletely visualized appendices:
           55 went to the OR
           160 were observed
                   -105 were discharged home with no return visits
                   - 55 had appendectomies
                    -39 had appendicitis confirmed by pathology
 -311 went home
          58 bounced-back
          1 had appendicitis confirmed by pathology
-442 kids had fully visualized appendices
           232 were consistent with appendicitis
Bottom line: 15% of kids with an incompletely visualized appendix have appendicitis, so serial reexamination is imperative.  If repeat clinical exams are reassuring, then the miss rate (for this study) was <0.3%.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Mental Health Screening

Keywords: Psychiatric clearance, pediatric (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/16/2014 by Jenny Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD

Mental health-related visits account for 1.6–6% of ED encounters.  Patients with acute psychosis are often brought to the ED for clearance prior to psychiatric evaluation.  Is this necessary?

Background: Several adult studies have shown that only 0–4% of patients with isolated psychiatric complaints have organic diagnoses requiring urgent treatment.  Routine ED laboratory testing in adults is low yield still, with one study identifying abnormalities in only 2 of 352 patients—both mild hypokalemia.  A pediatric study found that 207 of 209 patients were medically cleared.

This study was a retrospective review of pediatric psychiatric patients presenting to a an urban California hospital.  They examined 798 patients who had an involuntary psychiatric hold placed by a psychiatric mobile response team.

  • 72 (9.1%) were determined to require medical screening (based on patient complaints).
  • Only 35 (4.4%) holds were found to require further medical care prior to psychiatric hospitalization.
  • Total charges for laboratory assessments, secondary ambulance transfers and wages for sitters were $1,241,295 or US$17,240 per patient requiring a medical screen.
  • Patients were in the ED for an average of 7 h with a cumulative time of 5538 hours.

The authors concluded that few pediatric patients brought to the ED on an involuntary hold required a medical screen and perhaps use of basic criteria in the prehospital setting to determine who required a medical screen (altered mental status, ingestion, hanging, traumatic injury, unrelated medical complaint, sexual assault) could have led to significant savings.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Scabies diagnosis in kids

Keywords: scabies, pediatrics (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/18/2014 by Jenny Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD

Scabies is considered by the WHO to be one of the main neglected diseases with approximately 300 million cases worldwide each year. One third of cases of scabies seen by dermatologists are in kids less than 16 years old. The belief had been that presentation varies by age.  One French study reported a first time miss rate of more than 41% and an overall diagnostic delay of 62 days.

A prospective, multi center observational study of patients with confirmed scabies sought to determine common phenotypes in children. All patients were seen by dermatologists in France and administered standard questionnaires.  They were divided into 3 age groups, <2 years, 2-15 years and > 15 years.  323 patients were included.

The study found that: 
-infants were more likely to have facial involvement and nodules, especially on the back and axilla
-relapse was more common in < 15 year olds - this was hypothesized to be due to poor compliance with treatment to the head
-family members with itch, or planter or scalp involvement were independently associated with diagnosis of scabies in kids < 2 years
-burrows were seen in 78%, nodules in 67% and vesicles of 43% of patients (see photo)
-itching was absent in up to 10% of patients

Bottom line:  Have a high suspicion for scabies in any rash.



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1404180657_scabies_figures.docx (1,793 Kb)

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Sweets Before Sticks

Posted: 4/11/2014 by Rose Chasm, MD (Updated: 4/22/2024)
Click here to contact Rose Chasm, MD

  • Male infants are routinely given a sweet solution prior to circumcision for analgesia.
  • Michelis and Hoyle recently published a great review of the possible use of sweet solutions in the ED for pediatric patients.
  • Pediatric patients often undergo painful, but rather routine procedures in the ED such as IV and urinary catheter placement, venipuncture, and lumbar punctures.
  • More often than not, however, they are not provided analgesia prior to these procedures.
  • It is believed that repetitive early pain events lead to anxiety and other behavioral disorders while also decreasing pain tolerance.
  • In children less than 12 months, consider giving a sweet solution (2mL of 24% sucrose) 2 minutes before any painful procedure.
  • Multiple studies indicate decreased pain as measured by significantly reduced crying times.
  • It's cheap, safe, and works!

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Isolated vomiting in pediatric head injuries

Keywords: Head injury, vomiting, PECARN (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/21/2014 by Jenny Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD


Parents will often bring children to the ED for evaluation after a minor head injury.  Vomiting has been considered a risk factor for traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Is isolated vomiting clinically significant?
A PECARN study looked at children < 18 years.
Isolated vomiting with minor head trauma was defined as: No history of LOC, GCS of 15, no altered consciousness (ie sleepiness, agitation), no palpable skull fracture or signs of basilar skull fracture, acting
normally per parent/guardian, no scalp hematoma or other traumatic scalp finding (ie abrasion or laceration), no headache (for patients 2-18 y), no seizure after the head trauma, no neurological deficits
(eg, motor or sensory abnormalities) and no amnesia (for patients 2-18 y).
42,112 children were enrolled.
5,557 (13.2%) had a history of vomiting, of whom 815 of 5,392 (15.1%) with complete data had isolated vomiting.
Clinically important TBI (death, neurosurgical procedure, intubation for at least 24 hours for TBI, or hospitalization for 2 or more nights because of the head trauma in association with TBI on cranial CT) occurred in 2 of 815 patients with isolated vomiting compared with 114 of 4,577 with non isolated vomiting.
Of patients with isolated vomiting for whom CT was performed, TBI on CT occurred in 5 of 298 compared with 211 of 3,284 with non isolated vomiting
There was no association found with timing of onset or time since the last episode of vomiting.
Bottom line: TBI on CT is uncommon and clinically important traumatic brain injury is very uncommon in children with minor blunt head trauma when vomiting is their only sign or symptom. Observation in the emergency department before determining the need for CT appears appropriate for these children to observe for deterioration.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Dexamethasone for acute asthma exacerbations

Keywords: asthma, pediatrics, dexamethasone, prednisone (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/10/2014 by Danielle Devereaux, MD
Click here to contact Danielle Devereaux, MD

Hot off the press! Pediatrics March 2014 just published results of a meta-analysis that compared 1 or 2 dose regimens of Dexamethasone versus 5 day course of Prednisone/Prednisolone for management of acute asthma exacerbations in pediatric patients. The results showed that Dexamethasone was as efficacious as the longer course of Prednisone. End points used were return trips to the emergency department and hospital admissions. On further review of the literature, parents tend to prefer the shorter duration of therapy with Dexamethasone. Also, there is less vomiting associated with Dexamethasone. There have been several articles published that show Dexamethasone is more cost-effective than Prednisone. Bottom line: consider giving single dose of Dexamethasone in the ER and then sending patient home with 1 additional dose.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Passive Leg Raise in Children

Keywords: Passive leg raise, hypotension (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/21/2014 by Jenny Guyther, MD (Updated: 4/22/2024)
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD

Passive leg raise (PLR) has been studied in adults as a bedside tool to predict volume responsiveness (see previous pearls from 5/7/13 and 6/17/2008). Can this be applied to children?
A single center prospective study looked at 40 intensive care patients ranging in age from 1 month to 12.5 years.  They used a noninvasive monitoring system that could measure heart rate, stroke volume and cardiac output.  These parameters were measured at a baseline, after PLR, after another baseline and after a 10 ml/kg bolus.
Overall, changes in the cardiac index varied with PLR.  However, there was a statistically significant correlation in children over 5 years showing an increase in cardiac index with PLR and with a fluid bolus.
Bottom line:  In children older then 5 years, PLR can be a quick bedside tool to assess for fluid responsiveness, especially if worried about fluid overload and in an under served area.

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Category: Pediatrics

Title: Metabolic Emergencies in Kids! (Part I)

Keywords: metabolic, inborn errors of metabolism, hyperammonemia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/14/2014 by Danielle Devereaux, MD
Click here to contact Danielle Devereaux, MD

Inborn errors of metabolism (IEM) are rare, each typically affecting 1 in 5000 to 1 in 100,000 children, BUT collectively these disorders are more common because there are so many. If you are lucky…when they present to the ED they come with a letter from Dr. Greene (our world renowned metabolic geneticist) detailing exactly what to do. The rest of the time…you are on your own. Think about IEM in any neonate or child with history of feeding difficulties, failure to thrive, recurrent vomiting, unexplained altered mental status and/or acidosis. Pay particular attention to feeding difficulties that appear with changes in diet: switch from soy to cow’s milk formula (galactose), addition of juice or fruit or certain soy formulas (fructose), switch from breast milk to formula or foods (increased protein load), and longer fasting periods from sleeping or illness.

For this pearl, we will focus on primary hyperammonemia from an enzymatic block in ammonia metabolism within the urea cycle. It is important to remember that secondary hyperammonemia can result from metabolic defects such as organic acid disorders, fatty acid oxidation disorders, drugs that interfere with urea cycle, or severe liver disease. Amino acids liberated from excess protein breakdown (stress of newborn period, infection, injury, dehydration, surgery, or increased intake) release nitrogen which circulates as ammonia. Ammonia is then converted to urea via the urea cycle and excreted in the urine. With urea cycle defects (UCD) there is an enzymatic block in the cycle that results in accumulation of ammonia which has toxic effects on the CNS especially cerebral edema. The most common UCD is ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency followed by argininosuccinic academia, and citrullinemia.

Clinical presentation includes poor feeding, lethargy, tachypnea, hypothermia, irritability, vomiting, ataxia, seizures, hepatomegaly, and coma. Hyperammonemic crises in neonates mimic sepsis! If you think about an IEM in your differential, send plasma ammonia (1.5 mL sodium-heparin tube on ice STAT), plasma amino acids, and urine organic acids. Other helpful labs include blood gas, CMP, urinalysis (looking at ketones), lactate, plasma acylcarnitines, and newborn screen if not already sent. Plasma ammonia is a direct index of CNS toxicity and important to follow for acute management. Serum level > 150 in sick neonate or > 100 in sick infant/child is concerning for IEM. The presence of hyperammonemia and respiratory alkalosis suggest urea cycle defect. The presence of metabolic acidosis and hyperammonemia suggests organic acid disorder.

Immediate treatment of hyperammonemia is critical to prevent neurologic damage. Cognitive outcome is inversely related to the number of days of neonatal coma caused by the cerebral edema.

1. Stop all protein intake! You need to stop catabolism.

2. Start D10 at 1.5 times maintenance rate with GIR at least 6-8. Start intralipids 1-3g/kg/day when able (typically in the ICU after central line placed).

3. Give ammonia scavenger medications sodium benzoate and sodium phenylacetate. These are available commercially as Ammonul.

     a. 0-20kg: 2.5mL/kg IV bolus over 90 min followed by same dose as 24 hr infusion

     b. >20kg: 55 mL/m2 IV bolus over 90 min followed by same dose as 24 hr infusion

4. HEMODIALYSIS! Dialysis is the most effective way to remove ammonia and should be done when level > 300. The decision to hemodialyze is crucial in preventing irreversible CNS damage; when in doubt in the face of elevated ammonia, HEMODIALYZE!