UMEM Educational Pearls - Pediatrics

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Henoch-Schonlein Purpura

Posted: 8/3/2012 by Lauren Rice, MD (Updated: 12/11/2023)
Click here to contact Lauren Rice, MD


Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (aka. Anaphylactoid purpura) is a small vessel vasculitis.


  • most commonly diagnosed vasculitide in childhood
  • age range 3-15 years, mean age 4yo, mostly <7yo (75% cases)
  • more cases in Winter and Spring months
  • boys more commonly than girls (2:1)
  • IgA-mediated leukoclastic vasculitis

Clinical Features:

  • Rash: progresses to petechiae, purpura; occurs on lower extremities and buttocks in dependent areas
  • Joints: arthritis/arthralgia mainly of large joints (knees, ankles)
  • GI: colicky abdominal pain, may occur with melena (33%) or less likely, hematemesis; ultrasound for intussusception (2-14%)
  • Renal: microscopic hematuria with/without proteinuria; usually transient but may lead to progressive renal disease in patients with more severe, persistent symptoms
  • Orchitis and/or angioedema may also occur


  • unknown
  • preceding URI (50%)
  • associated with bacteria (Strep pyogenes, Legionella, Mycoplasma), viruses (EBV, CMV, parvovirus), drugs (penicillin, cephalosporins), and insect bites


  • clinical features
  • lab studies that are helpful but nonspecific: high WBC, high ESR, high IgA, normal platelet and coagulation studies


  • supportive care, may last up to 4 weeks
  • steroids may be helpful but evidence has not shown true benefit
  • recurrence happens in 40% of cases

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Neonatal jaundice (submitted by Adam Brenner, MD)

Keywords: hemolysis, bilirubin, kernicterus, jaundice (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/27/2012 by Mimi Lu, MD
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

Emergency physicians must be comfortable evaluating the neonate, and be able to manage, offer guidance to parents, and interpret and discuss bilirubin levels with pediatricians to prevent development of kernicterus
1 ) The key is the history, which allows you to risk stratify your patient; Risk factors for rising bilirubin levels include:
- isoimmune hemolytic disease
- G6PD deficiency
- Asphyxia
- Lethergy
- Sepsis
- Albumin < 3.0
Always ask parents about;
- Time of birth (hours matter)
- Maternal and fetal blood type
- Birth hx: term or preterm, GBS, TORCH infections
- Fever
- Poor feeding/ feeding patterns, including whether mom feels engorged and if latching is successful
- Stool color (yellow, acholic)
- Timing of first stool
- Timing of jaundice (jaundice at Day 1 of life is not physiologic)
2) Determine direct and total bilirubin level (direct bilirubinemia is always pathologic, and may indicate biliary atresia or hepatitis)
3) Determine need for observation, phototherapy, or exchange transfusion- Plot total bilirubin level on bilirubin nomogram- Nomograms can be referenced online or in Harriet- Lane handbook (separate nomograms exist for guidelines regarding phototherapy and exchange transfusion)
4) If safe for discharge, arrange for followup, and if no follow up available, the patient should return to the ED for a repeat bilirubin check in 12-24 hrs

Bonus pearl:  Types of Jaundice by Age

- < 24 hrs: hemolyis, TORCH, bruising from birth trauma (ie- cephalohematoma), acquired infection
- Day 2-3: Physiologic
- Day 3-7: infection, congenital diseases, TORCH
- >1 week: Breast Milk Jaundice, breast feeding jaundice, drug hemolysis, hypothyroidism, biliary atresia, hepatitis, red cell membrane disorders (SS, HS, G6PD deficiency)


Category: Pediatrics

Title: Childhood cancer (submitted by Semhar Tewelde, MD)

Keywords: leukemia, back pain, cancer (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/29/2012 by Mimi Lu, MD (Emailed: 7/20/2012) (Updated: 7/20/2012)
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

ED Presentations of Childhood Cancers

Approximately 12,000 children are diagnosed with malignancies in the USA each year.  Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children in the USA. Acute leukemias are the most common type of cancer, 26% of all cancer diagnosis.  Brain tumors and lymphomas are the next most common categories of neoplasm in children.
Initial symptoms in children who are diagnosed with cancer often mimic those of other, more common childhood illnesses; fever, vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, and malaise.  Particular attention should be paid to the patient who makes repeated visits for a persistent complaint that has not been fully evaluated.
Back pain is a rare complaint in children and should especially concern the ED physician to consider some common childhood tumors i.e. Wilms, Neuroblasoma, Osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma, Leukemia and/or Lymphoma

Findings which should prompt further work-up in the ED are: pallor, bleeding: petechiae, purpura, bone pain, limp, painless lymphadenopathy, gingival hyperplasia, abdominal mass, night sweats, pruritis, and unintended weight loss
Labs to obtain: CBC with manual differential, peripheral smear, CMP, uric acid, LDH, coagulation profile, and chest radiograph

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Laryngomalacia

Posted: 7/13/2012 by Rose Chasm, MD (Updated: 12/11/2023)
Click here to contact Rose Chasm, MD

  • congenital disorder which is the most common cause of stridor in infancy
  • larynx appears disproportionately small, and supporting structures are abnormally soft
  • stridor begins within the first 4 weeks of life, and accentuates with increased ventilation (crying, excitement, URI, etc.)
  • stridor usually resolves by 12 months but may recur with URI until about 3 years of age
  • diagnosis is by fiberoptic bronchoscopy or direct laryngoscopy
  • therapy is usually not needed, but rarely laser therapy of redundant tissue or traceostomy when stridor occurs with failure to thrive or apnea

Show References

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Burns

Posted: 6/29/2012 by Rose Chasm, MD (Updated: 12/11/2023)
Click here to contact Rose Chasm, MD

Submitted by Dr. Lauren Rice

The summertime can be full of lots of fun activities (beach, fireworks, cookouts, and campfires) that can put children at risk of burns. 

Burn depth classification:

1. Superficial (first-degree): red and blanching with minor pain, resolves in 5-7 days 

2. Partial thickness (second-degree): red and wet with blisters, very painful, resolves in 2-5 weeks

Treatment: clean with soap and water twice daily, and apply silvadene wrap with gauze, kerlex

3. Full thickness (third-degree): dry and leathery without pain, no resolution after 5-6 weeks, may require graft

Treatment:  wound debridement and dressings as above

Parkland formula: 4ml/kg/%TBSA in 1st 24 hours with 50% of total volume in 1st 8 hours

 Calculate burn surface area:

-SAGE: free computerized burn diagram available at

-Rule of Nines > 14 years old

-Rule of Palm <10 years old

Burn Center Referral

-Extent: partial thickness of >30% TBSA or full thickness of >10-20%

-Site: hands, feet, face, perineum, major joints

-Type: electrical, chemical, inhalation


Show References

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Umbilical disease in pediatrics (submitted by Adrea Lee, MD)

Posted: 6/23/2012 by Mimi Lu, MD (Emailed: 6/29/2012) (Updated: 6/29/2012)
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

Pathology at the umbilicus can manifest as inflammation, drainage, a palpable mass, or herniation.

Omphalitis - A cellulitis of the umbilicus. Mild cases often respond to local application of alcohol to clean the area, but due to the possibility of rapid progression and abdominal wall necrotizing fasciitis, admission for observation and IV antibiotics is usually warranted. Cover staph, strep, and GNRs.

Umbilical granuloma - As the umbilical ring closes and the cord sloughs off, granulation tissue formation is a normal part of umbilical epithelialization. There is sometimes an overgrowth of granulation tissue which can be treated once or twice with silver nitrate. Should the tissue not regress after a 1-2 treatments, the patient should be referred to pediatric surgery for excision and evaluation of other pathology (urachal or vitelline remnants).

Umbilical fistula - This is a patent vitelline duct and is characterized by persistent drainage that is bilious or purulent. A fistulogram using a small catheter and radio opaque dye can sometimes be helpful in determining the source of drainage (dye should be seen in the small bowel).

Umbilical polyp - Often confused with an umbilical granuloma with its glistening cherry red appearance, this is actually a vitelline duct remnant and contains small bowel mucosa. It does not regress with silver nitrate.

Vesicoumbilical fistula/sinus - The urachal versions of the umbilical fistula. This are a failure of complete closure of the urachus, resulting in persistent drainage of urine from the umbilicus, and infection (including recurrent UTIs). A fistulogram can be helpful for diagnosis. 

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Intussusception

Keywords: abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody stool, altered mental status, lethargy (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/22/2012 by Mimi Lu, MD
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD


Intussusception is the telescoping or prolapse of one portion of the bowel into an immediately adjacent segment.

  • age: 3 months to 6 years, most common among 3-12 months (although case reports exist in adults)
  • after constipation, most common cause of abdominal pain in infants and pre-school aged children
  • classic triad: colicky abdominal pain, vomiting, and red currant jelly stools
    • occurs in only 10% -20% of cases
  • although colicky pain is the most common symptom, 15-20% experience no pain
  • vomiting is often the earliest symptom, but may be absent in 30-40% cases
  • most patients (75%) without grossly bloody stool, may be positive for occult blood
  • plain abdominal radiographs may be normal in 30% of cases
  • consider in differential for intants with altered mental status/ lethargy
    • TIPS AEIOU - one of the "I"s is for intussusception
  • choice of radiographic evaluation is institution-dependent
    • ultrasound may be diagnostic but is not therapeutic
    • air or contrast enema can diagnose and treat
    • both are operator dependent


Category: Pediatrics

Title: Supracondylar fractures in children (submitted by Mike Santiago, MD)

Keywords: orthopedics, fracture, reduction, elbow (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/15/2012 by Mimi Lu, MD
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

Definition: Fracture of the humerus just proximal to the epicondyles.

-Classification of fracture based on mechanism:
  • Extension type (majority >80%; distal fx segment displaced posteriorly)
  • Flexion type (distal fx segment displaced anteriorly)
-Assessment should be made for neurovascular injuries.
  • Any diminished pulsations or capillary refill should cause concern for vascular compromise (arterial compression, tear, or compartment syndrome).
  • Place a continuous pulse oximetry probe on the affected hand to monitor bloodflow.
  • The radial, median, or ulnar nerves may be affected and should be assessed.
-Look for accompanying fractures of the forearm and wrist and xray those areas if suspected.
-Nondisplaced fractures may follow up with orthopedics within 1 week after posterior long arm splinting (elbow at 90 degrees & forearm in neutral position)
-Displaced fractures require prompt pediatric orthopedic consultation for closed reduction in OR vs operative repair.
-Obtain emergent orthopedic consultation for compartment syndrome, neurovascular compromise, or open fracture.
-Partial reductions in ED likely just increase soft tissue swelling and delay definitive reduction and should be reserved for rare cases of vascular compromise.

Wheeless, CR.  Pediatric Supracondylar Fractures of the Humerus.  Wheeless’ Textbook of Orthopedics.  [Accessed online 4/22/12.]
Ryan, LM.  Evaluation and management of supracondylar fractures in children.  UpToDate.  [Accessed 4/22/2012].


Category: Pediatrics

Title: Newborn feeding (submitted by JV Nable, MD)

Keywords: breastfed, formula, obesity, weight gain (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/25/2012 by Mimi Lu, MD
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

Proper Feeding of the Newborn

The emergency physician must be comfortable with providing anticipatory guidance to parents of newborn, especially with regards to proper feeds of the neonate.

Newborns will lose some weight in the first 5-7 days of life. A 5% weight loss is considered normal for a formula fed newborn. A 7%-10% loss is considered normal for the breastfed baby. Most babies regain their birth weight by days10-14 of life. During the first 3 months, infants gain about an ounce a day (30 g) or 2 pounds a month (900 g).  By age 3-4 months, healthy term infants have doubled their birth weight.

Breast-fed Neonates:
- Should be fed every 2-3 hours while awake
- 5-20 minutes of sucking per breast
- May gain weight slower than formula-fed counterparts

Formula-fed Neonates:
- 0.5-1 ounces per feeding every 3-4 hours for the 1st week
- Then 1-3 ounces per feeding every 3-4 hours
- Typical formula contains 20 cal/ounce

In general, overfeeding during the neonatal period has been associated with adult obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least the 1st 6 months of life. Earlier switches to formula has been associated with atopy, diabetes and obesity

- Fleischer DM. “Introducing formula and solid foods to infants at risk for allergenic disease.” UptoDate;2012.
- Hammer LD, et al. “Development of feeding practices during the first 5 years of life.”  Nutrition;1999;189-194.
- Philips SM and Jensen C. “Dietary history and recommended dietary intake in children.” UptoDate;2011.
- Prior LJ and Armitage JA. “Neonatal overfeeding leads to developmental programming of adult obesity.” J Physiol;2009:2419.


Category: Pediatrics

Title: ALTE (submitted by Jim Lantry, MD)

Keywords: apparent life threatening event (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/18/2012 by Mimi Lu, MD
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

There has been no link found between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and an Acute Life Threatening Event (ALTE)

There are several factors that dispute previous claims of each being manifestations of the same disease state:

1)      Timing: approx 75-80% of  SIDS deaths occur between midnight and 6 AM; 80-85% of  ALTE occur between 8 AM and 8 PM 

2)      Prevention: Interventions to prevent SIDS (ex, “back to sleep”) have not resulted in a decreased incidence of ALTE

3)      Risk factors:

a.       SIDS: prone sleeping, bottle feeding, maternal smoking

b.      ALTE: repeated apnea, pallor, history of cyanosis, feeding difficulties


BONUS PEARL: A thorough history and physical will lead to the diagnosis for the source of the ALTE in 21%

Pertinent historical items: detailed bystander history of event (parents, EMS), activity and behavior prior to event and any past medical issues or medications (focus on GERD and pulmonary)

Pertinent physical exam: detailed neurological and cardiopulmonary system eval with focus on signs of non-accidental trauma (retinal hemorrhaging, bulging fontanel, bruising) as up to 10% of ALTEs involve some form of abuse


1) Blair, PS. Et. Al. Major epidemiological changes in sudden infant death syndrome: a 20-year population-based study in the UK. The Lancet. 2006; 367(9507):314-319
2) Moon, RY, Horne, RSC, Hauck, FR.  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The Lancet. 2007; 370(9598):1578-1587
3) McGovern MC, Smith MBH. Causes of apparent life threatening events in infants: a systematic review. Archive Diseases of Childhood. 2004; 89:1043-8.
4) U Kiechl-Kohlendorfer,U, Hof, D, Pupp Peglow, U, Traweger-Ravanelli, B, Kiechl.  Epidemiology of apparent life threatening events. Archive of Diseases of Childhood. 2005; 90:297-300

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Submersion injuries (submitted by Floyd Howell, MD)

Keywords: drowning, submersion, seizure, intubation (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/27/2012 by Mimi Lu, MD
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

Submersion injuries are the 2nd leading cause of accidental death in children with 1/3 of survivors sustaining significant neurologic sequelae.  50% of drownings occur from May to August.

40% of all drowning victims are children under age 4, with males affected 3 times as often as females.  Most drownings occur with 10 feet of safety.  Infants and toddlers drown most often in bathtubs (especially if <1 year old), buckets, toilets, pools and hot tubs (most often the pools are in-ground).  Those with seizure disorders have a 10-14 fold higher likelihood of drowning.

Aspiration of as little as 1-3ml/kg of fluid may cause pulmonary edema, surfactant inactivation or washout, pulmonary shunting with resulting V/Q mismatching, or direct injury to the alveolar membrane. 

Immediate and adequate resuscitation, including intubation, is the single most important factor determining survival.  Always check body temperature as hypothermia is common.  In general, prophylactic antibiotics and steroids are not indicated unless drowning occurred in grossly contaminated water/sewage.  

1. Stewart, C. Pediatric Submersion Injuries: New Definitions and Protocols. Pediatric Emergency Medicine Practice, Apr 2006;3:1-20.
2. Burford, AE, et al. Drowning and Near-Drowning in Children and Adolescents. Pediatric Emergency Care, 2005. 21:9.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Transfusion guidelines

Keywords: transfusion, anemia, hemoglobin (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/20/2012 by Mimi Lu, MD
Click here to contact Mimi Lu, MD

Children are at higher risk for complications related to the transfusion of blood products compared with adults. So when should we consider transfusion?


Normal hemoglobin values:

- highest at birth (14 - 24 g/dL),

- decreasing to 8 to 14 g/dL at 3 months,

- increasing to 10 to 14 g/dL at age 6 months to 6 years, 11 to 16 g/dL at age 7 to 12 years, and 11.5 to 18 g/dL in adulthood.

- Although the number of platelets are in the normal range at birth, their function is impaired.


For infants younger than 4 months, thresholds for red blood cell transfusions:

- hemoglobin levels are 12 g/dL for preterm infants or term infants born anemic,

- 11 g/dL for chronic oxygen dependency,

- 12 to 14 g/dL for severe pulmonary disease,

- 7 g/dL for late anemia in a stable infant,

- 12 g/dL for acute blood loss exceeding 10% of estimated blood volume.


For infants older than 4 months, thresholds for red blood cell transfusions:

- hemoglobin levels are 7 g/dL in a stable infant,

- 7 to 8 g/dL in a critically unwell infant or child,

- 8 g/dL in an infant or child with perioperative bleeding,

- 9 g/dL in an infant or child with cyanotic congenital heart disease (increased oxygen demand).

- 9 g/dl in children with thalassemia major (to slow bone marrow stimulation)


For children with sickle cell disease (SCD):

- threshold is 7 to 9 g/dL, or more than 9 g/dL if the child has previously had a stroke.

- perioperatively for major surgery: 9 to 11 g/dL, and sickle hemoglobin should be less than 30%, or less than 20% for thoracic or neurosurgery.


Bottom line:

A threshold of 7 g/dL is indicated for the transfusion of packed red blood cells in most children.




1) Transfusion guidelines in children. Anasethesia and Intensive Care Medicine. 2012;13(1);20–23.

2) Medscape clinical education briefs

  • usually in preschool or early school-age children presenting with tea-colored urine
  • most commonly is postinfectious (following URI)
  • may also have periorbital edema and high blood pressure
  • UA shows blood, and microscopy shows RBC's and RBC casts
  • no definitive emergent treatment, but prognosis is usually good with resolution of symptoms over 8-10 weeks

Show References

It is likely that during ones career in Emergency Medicine, one will be faced with how to work up a child presenting to the ER following exposure to common house electrical current.  The older recommendations were such that all children exposed, received a screening EKG and were admitted to telemetry for monitoring.  However, a relatively recent article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine suggests otherwise.

In fact, after reviewing several studies the authors conclude that, although there is not enough literature to support evidence based practice “guidelines”, there appears to enough evidence to support that practice of “safely discharging these children without an initial EKG evaluation or inpatient cardiac monitoring after a common household current exposure.” This includes both 120V and 220 V exposures.

Clearly, some patients may require work up and/or admission based on other injuries or clinical presentation.


Chen E H, Sareen A, Do Children Require ECG Evaluation and Inpatient Telemetry After Household Electrical Exposures? Ann Emerg Med. 2007;49:64-67.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Paroxysmal Torticollis of Infancy

Posted: 3/31/2012 by Rose Chasm, MD (Updated: 12/11/2023)
Click here to contact Rose Chasm, MD

  • both head tilting to one side and rotation of the chin toward the other side
  • develops during infancy with episodes that last for hours to days
  • idiopathic neurologic condition which wanes after 2 years and stops by 3 years
  • mild delays in fine and gross motor skills are common along with family history of migraines
  • no accepted medical treatment or therapy
  • must have a normal physical and neurological examination that does not include abnormal/assymetric muscle tone, abnormal eye movements, or cranial nerve palsy

Show References

Patellar dislocations:

  • lateral displacement is the most common
  • tender with limited range of motion
  • caused by sudden twisting movement, either with or without contact
  • more common in females and young adolescents
  • reduction by extension of the knee and medial pressure on the patella
  • knee immobilizer and crutches with orthopedics or sports medicine follow up
  • recurrent cases usually require surgery for definitive repair


2. New England Musculoskeletal Institute.

Rashes that include palms/ soles

- Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease

- Kawasaki

- Erythema multiforme/ Stevens Johnson's Syndrome/ Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis

- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

- Scabies

- Syphillis


Rashes that have +Nikolsky's sign

- Scalded Skin Syndrome


-  Pemphigus Vulgaris


Rashes that desquamate

- Scalded Skin Syndrome

- Toxic Shock Syndrome

- Scarlet Fever

- Kawasaki


  • acute gastroenteritis is a self-limited illness
  • however, damage to the brush border of the small intestine mucosa where lactase is present may lead to a secondary lactase deficiency and subsequent inability to digest lactose properly
  • partially or minimally digested lactose moves into the colon where it is fermented by enteric bacteria resulting in hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and acids
  • these byproducts result in symptoms reported for those with lactase deficiency: cramps, abominal pain and distension, and flatulence
  • the increased solute load in the large intestine leads to increased osmotic pressure, causing watery diarrhea
  • early refeeding following gastroenteritis is recommended, but many clinicians recommend dairy restricted diets acutely

Show References

•Hemophilia A is the deficiency of factor VIII, hemophilia B, the deficiency of factor IX.  In this disease, thrombin is not formed by VIIIa or Ixa
•Emergent presentations are due to bleeding. Hemophiliac joints have a higher tendency to bleed, because synovial cells make more tissue factor pathway inhibitor, and so have higher Xa inhibition.
•Especially in severe hemophilia, alloantibodies can develop that neutralize factor VIII.  Presence of an inhibitor may mean decreased responsiveness to treatment with factor concentrate.  Factor VIII in high doses may overcome this.
•Hemoglobin, hematocrit, platelets, PT, INR are likely to be normal.  PTT may be normal or prolonged, it is more likely prolonged in severe disease. Draw 2 extra blue-top tubes to be spun and frozen for inhibitor assays.
•Several studies have shown the safety and efficacy of NSAIDs for pain control for arthritis in hemophiliacs.  However, these studies tend to be small and in select groups of hemophiliacs, under careful supervision.
•DDAVP can be useful in mild hemophilia.  FFP and cryoprecipitate are not used, due to concerns for volume overload and viral transmission.  Recombinant FVIII concentrates are the treatment of choice.  1U/kg will increase plasma levels by 2%.   The severity of the bleeding dictate the goal serum percentage (30-100%) and the time (hours –days) it should be kept at this level.  
•Consult the blood bank and hematology early, for optimal management.

Children & Appendicitis 

  • Vomiting may be the first sign. 
  • Children may not experience anorexia and may actually request food. 
  • Most young children have perforation at the time of diagnosis.
  • Children younger than 2 years of age may have generalized symptoms such as irritability and tachypnea
  • Ultrasonography is useful in evaluation of thin children but is very operator dependent.
  • CT with oral contrast and i.v. contrast may be needed to differentiate intraabdominal structures in thin children