UMEM Educational Pearls - Pediatrics

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Back Pain

Keywords: Back Pain, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Neuroblastoma (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/24/2008 by Sean Fox, MD (Emailed: 1/25/2008) (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Pediatric Back Pain

  • Back Pain in PrePubertal Children is rare and often due to serious underlying disorder
    • Infection (diskitis or osteomyelitis)
    • Malignancy
      • Osteoma, Osteoblastoma
      • Histiocytosis X
      • Lymphoma, Leukemia
      • Ewing Sarcoma
      • Neuroblastoma, Spinal Cord Glioma
  • Back Pain in adolescent children is more likely to be due to muscular skeletal injury (as with adults)
    • Classified as chronic back pain (greater than 4 weeks duration) in up to 13%


  • Red Flags for Serious Underlying Disorders
    • <4yrs of age
    • Back Pain causing functional disability (child not willing to play)
    • Fever
    • Neurologic Abnormality (get the child undressed and do a good neuro exam).

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Ketamine and RSI for pts p TBI

Keywords: Ketamine, RSI, TBI (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/18/2008 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Ketamine and RSI for pts p TBI

  • Traditionally, Ketamine has been avoided for patients with traumatic brain injury; however, this may be unwarranted…
    • Early after TBI, ICP is not usually elevated.
    • Early after TBI there is a low blood flow state, and Ketamine can increase cerebral blood flow.
    • As long as there is no obstruction to CSF flow, Ketamine will not increase ICP.
  • Evidence now states that Ketamine can be neuroprotective because it blocks glutamine because of it NMDA antagonist properties.
  • Ketamine also has antiepileptic properties (which improve pediatric TBI outcomes).
  • End result, if a patient has TBI and there is no concern for obstruction to CSF drainage, then Ketamine can be a possible option for RSI.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Newly Diagnosed ITP in Children

Keywords: ITP, Leukemia, Steroids, IVIG, Anti-Rh(d), Bone Marrow Aspiration (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/11/2008 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Pediatric ITP – Bone Marrow Aspiration


  • ITP is an acquired disorder characterized by:
    • thrombocytopenia (platelet < 150)
    • a purpuric rash
    • normal bone marrow
    • the absence of signs of other identifiable causes of thrombocytopenia.


  • Therapeutic options include Steroids, IVIG, and Ant-Rh(d)
    • For patients with new Diagnosis, consultation with a hematologist is warranted:
    • Despite the growing number of studies that state there is a low probability of newly diagnosed leukemia presenting as isolated thrombocytopenia, the risk exists.
    • Bone Marrow Bx is the Gold Standard prior to starting steroids currently.
    • Steroids may partially treat a leukemia.
    • Can avoid Bone Marrow Bx if you use IVIG (which needs to be given in consultation with Hematology)

Category: Pediatrics

Title: RSV Rapid testing use

Keywords: RSV, Apnea, Congenital Heart Disease, Chronic Lung Disease, Prematurity, Rapid testing (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/4/2008 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Bronchiolitis: Use of RSV rapid testing


  • Firstly, know that the sensitivity of the test is ~60% (leaving 40% that have the disease testing falsely negative)
  • Secondly, in whom will the result impact your decision?
    • High-risk patient populations (at risk of decompensation or apnea)
      • Premature (especially <34 wks GA)
      • Infants < 2months of age
      • Chronic Lung Disease
      • Congenital Heart Disease
    • Infants undergoing sepsis evaluations
      • The incidence of concominant serious bacterial infection and RSV is low (<1%)

Purcell K, Fergie J. Concominant serious bacterial infections in 2396 infans and children hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus lower respiratory tract infections. Arch pediatr adolesce med. 2002; 156: 322-324.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Childhood Cancer Presentation

Keywords: Childhood Cancers, Leukemia, Lymphoma, pallor, fatigue (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/28/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Pediatric Leukemia/Lymphoma Presentation in the ED

  • Pts most commonly present with c/o pallor or decreased activity
  • Physical Exam commonly demonstrates pallor, splenomegaly, fever, hepatomegaly, lymphadenopathy, and ecchymoses/petechiae.
  • CBC’s and peripheral smears are realiably abnormal
  • Patients with solid tumor more commonly present with symptoms related to tumor location (ie Abd pain, Headache, etc.)

Jaffe D, Fleisher G, Grosflam J. Detection of cancer in the pediatric emergency department. Pediatr Emerg Care. 1985 Mar;1(1):11-5.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Child with a Limp

Keywords: Limp, Antalgic Gait, Trendelenburg Gait, Septic Arthritis, Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, SCFE (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/21/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Child with a Limp

  • First classify the limp:
    • Antalgic gait = shortened stance phase of the affected extremity due to PAIN
    • Trendeleburg gait = equal stance phase between involved and uninvolved side, shifted center of gravity; NOT Painful
  • Etiologies
    • Painful Limp
      • 1-3 years of age: Septic Joint, Occult Trauma, Neoplasm
      • 4-10 years of age: Septic Joint, Transient Synovitis, Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, Trauma, neoplasm, Rheumatologic D/O
      • 11 + years of age: SCFE, Rheumatologic D/O, Trauma, (consider AVN in pts with sickle cell disease)
    • Trendelenburg Gait
      • Indicative of underlying hip instability or muscle weakness
      • Think of congential hip dislocation and Neuromuscular Diseases/Disorders

Grossman, Emblad, Plantz. Orthopedic Emergencies in Pediatric Emergency Medicine Board Review.  2nd Edition. 2006. p305.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Child Abuse

Keywords: Child Abuse, Fractures (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/14/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Child Abuse

  • An estimated 2,815,600 children are harmed or endangered by their caretakers annually
  • Fractures are among the most common injuries seen in these children and are frequently highly specific for a diagnosis of abuse.
  • No fracture is pathognomonic of abuse
  • Some are suggestive:
    • Spinal fx
    • Digital fx
    • Complex skull fx
    • Spiral Long Bone fx
    • Scapular fx
    • Sternal fx
    • Metaphyseal fx
    • Periosteal separation
  • Some are more specific:
    • Posterior Rib fx
    • Acromioclavicular Fx
    • Multiple fxs of different ages
  • Infants < 1 year of age with fractures have a high prevalence of abuse.

    C Y Skellern, D O Wood, A Murphy, M Crawford (2000). Non-accidental fractures in infants: Risk of further abuse. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 36 (6), 590–592.

    K. Nimkin, P. Kleinman. IMAGING OF CHILD ABUSE. Radiologic Clinics of North America, Volume 39, Issue 4, Pages 843-864

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Initial Management of the Premature Infant in Your ED

Keywords: Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome, RDS, Cold Stress, Surfactant (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/7/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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The Premature Infant Delivered in Your Department

An ode to my final NICU Call… just because you don’t work in a Pediatric ED, doesn’t mean you won’t encounter premature infants.

What do you need to remember when a premature infant is born in your ED (or the ambulance / cab / car)?

  • Warm them and keep them warm
    • Cold stress, often overlooked, worsens acidosis and decreases surfactant function.
  • Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome manifests as cyanosis, tachypnea, grunting, retractions, and/or respiratory failure.
    • CXR has “ground-glass” appearance and air bronchograms
    • It is due primarily to inadequate surfactant.
    • Early administration of surfactant has proven to improve outcomes
    • Contact a neonatologist ASAP and determine if you have easy access to a surfactant product (it really is an amazing therapy).
    • You administer it down the ETT… you’ve likely intubated them by now.
  • Fluids
    • Fluid Boluses are done with normal saline (10ml/kg)
    • Maintenance Fluids should be D5W or D10 (no electrolytes at first!)
  • Antibiotics
    • One of the most common reasons for premature delivery is neonatal infections… don’t be stingy, start Amp/Gent (consider acyclovir) and send blood cultures at least.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pierre Robin Syndrome

Keywords: Pediatric Airway, Pierre Robin Syndrome, Micrognathia, Emergent Tracheostomy, LMA (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/30/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Pierre Robin Syndrome

  • The prime features of this condition are a small jaw (micrognathia), cleft palate, and posteriorly positioned tongue.
  • In the newborn period, respiratory compromise from obstruction is of greatest concern.
    • Because the tongue is positioned in the back of the mouth, it tends to block the airway and cause respiratory distress.
    • In severe cases, a tracheostomy may be required to provide a stable airway for the patient. (We just had an emergent tracheostomy done in our NICU this month).
  • Severity of airway obstruction varies from mild to life-threatening.
    • With only mild distress, attempt to relieve the obstruction by placing the child on his or her stomach; gravity will help to keep the tongue out of the airway.
    • Resuscitation of babies with more severe obstruction may be difficult because the micrognathia and the posteriorly protruded tongue can contribute to inadequate face-mask ventilation and make endotracheal intubation difficult (or impossible).
    • Consider LMA as a bridge to tracheostomy.
    • As soon as you recognize the presence of mirognathia, have someone call pediatric anesthesia and pediatric surgery.

Baraka, A. Laryngeal Mask Airway for Resuscitation of a Newborn with Pierre-Robin Syndrome. Anesthesiology. 83(3):646-647, September 1995.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Proteinuria

Keywords: Proteinuria, Orthostatic Proteinuria, Creatinine (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/23/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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  • Proteinuria on U/A may suggest underlying renal disease; however, it may be present for benign reasons as well:
    • A very concentrated urine (SG ≥ 1.020)
    • Alkaline urine (pH ≥ 7.5)
    • Presence of mucoproteins
    • Acute illness
  • Benign processes almost never produce proteinuria above 1+.
  • If proteinuria is detected in the ED in an asymptomatic patient:
    • Have the patient f/u with PMD for repeat u/a within 1-2 weeks
    • Recommend checking a first morning urine sample and urine protein: creatinine ratio (to rule out orthostatic/transient proteinuria).
  • If proteinuria persists or is evident on first morning urine sample, then a renal biopsy may be indicated.
  • Chemistry panels, CBC’s, renal ultrasound, and 24-hour urine collection rarely change the plan.

Chandar J, Gomez-Martin O, del Pozo R, et al. Role of routine urinalysis in asymptomatic pediatric patients.  Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2005; 44:44-48.

Hogg RJ, Portman Rj, Milliner D, Lemley KV, Eddy A, Ingelfinger J. Evaluation and management of proteinuria and nephritic syndrome in children recommendations from a pediatric nephrology panel established at the National Kidney Foundation Conference on Proteinuria, Albuminuria, Risk, Assessment, Detection, and Elimination (PARADE). Pediatrics. 2000; 105: 1242-1249.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Atrial Myxomas

Keywords: Stroke, Embolus, Retinal artery occlusion (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/16/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Atrial Myxomas:

  • Rare primary heart tumor
  • Most involve the left side of the heart
  • Symptoms may include fatigue, fever, rash, chest pain, syncope, and/or focal neuro deficits
    • Symptomatic emboli occur in 20-45% of pts with atrial myxomas
    • >50% of emboli go to the brain
    • Hemiplegia, aphasia, retinal artery occlusion, embolic “rash” in a child should all raise concern for cardiac source in pediatric pt.
      • Embolus from the heart is the most common cause of retinal artery occlusion in pts <40yrs.
  • Emboli are most often myxoma tissue and not blood clot (so thrombolytics aren’t of much value)

Majeed Al-Mateen, et al. Cerebral Embolism From Atrial Myxoma in Pediatric Patients. Pediatrics, Aug 2003; 112: e162 - e167.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Rheumatic Fever

Keywords: Rheumatic Fever, Jones Criteria, Heart Disease, Salicylates, Chorea (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/9/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Rheumatic Fever

  • Significant cause of cardiovascular morbidity in developing countries and still present in the USA, although declining in incidence.
  • American Heart Association update of the Jones Criteria (1992):
    • Major Criteria
      (1)    Carditis (of any of the layers of the heart)
      (2)    Polyarthritis
      (3)    Subcutaneous Nodules
      (4)    Erythema Marginatum
      (5)    Chorea
    • Minor Criteria
      (1)    Arthralgia (not a criterion if polyarthritis is present)
      (2)    Fever
      (3)    Elevated acute-phase reactants (ESR, CRP)
      (4)    Prolonged P-R interval
  • Diagnosis made by presence of TWO MAJOR or ONE MAJOR PLUS TWO MINOR.
  • Diagnosis can also be made with presence of chorea and documented strep pharyngitis.
  • Acute Management
    • Treat the Infection
      (1)    Penicillin (Pen V for 10 days or Pen G IM)
    • Alleviate Symptoms
      (1)    Salicylates are particularly effective for migratory arthritis
      (2)    High Dose ASA (80-100mg/kg/Day for several weeks, and then taper)
      (3)    NSAIDs for those who cannot tolerate ASA
      (4)    Steroids reserved for moderate to severe carditis.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Childhood Heart Transplantation

Keywords: Heart Transplantation, Rejection, Syncope, Chest Pain (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/2/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Children s/p Heart Transplantation – Rejection

  • Children need heart transplantation for complex congenital heart defects (hypoplastic left heart syndrome is most common) or dilated cardiomyopathies.
  • Signs of Acute rejection
    • Chest Pain is uncommon
    • Common presentions: fever, myalgias, and vomiting.
      • ECG may show a decreased R wave amplitude and an increased QRS duration.
    • Labs are most often NOT diagnostic in acute rejection.
      • Troponin and CK levels may or may not be elevated.
      • Elevated LFTs are concerning for right heart failure.
    • Echo – Diastolic dysfunction is the earliest change seen in acute rejection
  • Signs of Chronic Rejection
    • Clinical symptoms often related to the accelerated atherosclerosis
    • “Silent” ischemia or infarction – decreased exercise tolerance or malaise
    • Syncope

Woods, WA. Care of the Acutely Ill Pediatric Heart Transplant Recipient. Pediatric Emergency Care. 23(10):721-724, October 2007.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Severe Asthma in Pediatrics

Keywords: Severe Asthma, Refractory to standard therapy, intubation, atrovent, magnesium, noninvasive ventilation, heliox, ketamine, singulair (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/26/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Severe Asthma in Pediatrics (Using “the kitchen sink” when all else fails)

Every effort should be made to avoid intubating an asthmatic pt.  Here are some possible options to consider:

  • Atrovent - Multiple doses should be preferred to single doses of anticholinergics. The available evidence only supports their use in school-aged children with severe asthma exacerbation. (reference #1)
  • Magnesium - Magnesium sulfate appears to be safe and beneficial in patients who present with severe acute asthma (based on 5 adult and 2 pediatric studies)
  • Noninvasive ventilation - The application of NPPV in patients suffering from status asthmaticus, despite some interesting and very promising preliminary results, still remains controversial. (only one trial met criteria.  No pediatric studies)
  • Heliox – No good evidence to support its use, but it is relatively safe to use, provided the patient doesn’t need more than 30% FiO2 (70%Helium)
  • Ketamine – Cases suggest that for children experiencing severe asthma exacerbations, intravenous ketamine may be an effective temporizing measure to avoid exposing children to the risks associated with mechanical ventilation.
  • Singulair - Intravenously administered montelukast, in addition to standard therapy, provided rapid benefits and was well tolerated among patients with acute asthma. (Study population 15yrs – 54yrs).


  • References:
  1. Plotnick LH, Ducharme FM. Combined inhaled anticholinergics and beta2-agonists for initial treatment of acute asthma in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1997, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD000060.
  2. Rowe BH, Bretzlaff JA, Bourdon C, Bota GW, Camargo CA Jr. Magnesium sulfate for treating exacerbations of acute asthma in the emergency department. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1999, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001490.
  3. Ram FSF, Wellington SR, Rowe B, Wedzicha JA. Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation for treatment of respiratory failure due to severe acute exacerbations of asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004360.
  4. Rodrigo, GJ. et al. Use of Helium-Oxygen Mixtures in the Treatment of Acute Asthma. Chest. 2003;123:891-896. 2003
  5. T. Kent Denmark, Heather A. Crane, Lance Brown. Ketamine to avoid mechanical ventilation in severe pediatric asthma. Journal of Emergency Medicine. Volume 30, Issue 2. pages 163-166


Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Septic Shock

Keywords: Sepsis, Shock, Tachycardia, Hypotension (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/19/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Pediatric Septic Shock

  • Sepsis is the most common cause of pediatric deaths worldwide.
  • Recognition is paramount!  Delayed Dx = Higher Mortality
    • Hypotension is a late finding. 
    • Look for other signs of End Organ Hypoperfusion
      • Prolonged Cap Refill, Change in MS
      • Tachycardia, Tachypnea
      • Elevated Lactate / unexplained metabolic acidosis
  • Management strategy is similar to that of adults
    • Get access (Don’t forget your I/O’s if necessary)!
    • Fluid Resuscitation is the most important aspect of the management
      • Get 20-60ml/kg infused within the first 15 minutes
      • Children with septic shock who get >40ml/kg before the first hour have increased survival compared to those who do not.
        • They may require 60-200ml/kg over the first few hours.
    • Get your Abx on board quickly
    • Currently there are Protocols that are based on the Adult Surviving Sepsis Campaign.

Goldstein B, Giroir B, Randolph A. International pediatric sepsis consensus conference: definitions for sepsis and organ dysfunction in pediatrics.  Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2005 Jan;6(1):2-8.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Foreign Bodies

Keywords: Foreign Body, Button Battery, Heliox, Respiratory Distress (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/12/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Foreign Bodies
•    No object should be left in the esophagus for >24 hrs
•    Unusual FB’s:
        ==>    Very Sharp or pointed objects may perforate the GI tract and should be removed endoscopically.
        ==>    Long objects (>6cm) or wide (>2cm) objects may not pass and should  be remove  endoscopically.
•    Button Batteries
        ==>    9% of cases involve more than one battery (x-ray mouth to anus)
        ==>    Hazards:
                    (1)    Heavy metal leakage (Mercury) – low risk but real
                    (2)    Electrical Discharge (Local tissue injury)
                    (3)    Pressure Necrosis
                    (4)    Leakage of Corrosives
        ==>    85% Pass without symptoms
                    (1)    No intervention if pass the esophagus and pt is without symptoms

•    Consider Heliox as a temporizing measure in children with respiratory distress, while awaiting endoscopy/bronchoscopy.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Concussions (Pediatric Sports Medicine)

Keywords: Concussion, Second Impact Syndrome, Sports Medicine (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/5/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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  • Symptoms
    • HA, Dizziness, Confusion, Tinnitus, Nausea, Vomiting, Vision changes
  • 3 grades of Concussions
    • Grade 1 = transient concussion symptoms.  No amnesia.  No LOC. 
    • Grade 2 = transient concussion symptoms with amnesia.  No LOC.
    • Grade 3 = + LOC of any durations
  • Return to Play Guidelines 
    • (there is no consensus statement. What follows is based on the most conservative approach)
    • Grade 1: Remove from game, Examine q 5 min.
      Return to game when asymptomatic for 20 minutes.
    • Grade 2: Remove from game until asymptomatic for 1 week.
    • Grade 3: ED evaluation.  No contact sports for 1 month once asymptomatic for 2 weeks. 
      • These apply to first concussions.  Increase concern with 2nd concussion.
  • Second-Impact Syndrome
    • Occurs when a player returns to contact sport before symptoms of 1 concussion have fully  resolved.
    • Even a minor blow to the head can result in loss of brain’s autoregulation of blood flow.  
      • Leads to vascular engorgement and subsequent herniation.

Colorado Medical Society School and Sports Medicine Committee. Guidelines for the management of concussion in sports. Colo Med 1990;87:4.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Growth

Keywords: Growth, Failure to thrive, Weight Gain (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/28/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Growth An infant with failure to thrive will first demonstrate poor weight gain. ==> With continued insult, there will be reduced height/length growth and then, finally, reduced head circumference growth. After birth, infants will normally loose weight initially (particularly breastfed infants). Infants should regain their birth weight by 2 weeks of life. For the first 3 months, infants should gain ~30 grams a day (~1 oz / day). By 6 months, they should have doubled their weight. By 12 months, they should have tripled their weight. By 24 months, they should have quadrupled their weight.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Henoch-Schonlein Purpura

Keywords: Henoch-Schonlein Purpura, abdominal pain, Vasculitis, Nephritis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/21/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Henoch-Schonlein Purpura HSP is a small vessel vasculitis ==> Related to IgA nephropathy; however, IgA nephropathy more often involves young adults and predominantly affects the kidneys. Generally, HSP is a benign, self-limited disease. Pt s are NOT TOXIC appearing. ARENA (common symptoms) ==> Abdominal Pain and Vomitting (85%) +/- Bloody Stools ==> Rash (95-100%) ==> Edema (20-50%), peripheral or scrotal ==> Nephritis ==> Arthritis / Arthragias (60-80%) particularly of knees and ankles Steroids are controversial no definitive controlled trials demonstrate their efficacy.

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Supracondylar Fractures

Keywords: Humeral Fracture, Supracondylar Fracture, radius fracture, Compartment Syndrome (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/14/2007 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 6/24/2024)
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Supracondylar Fractures Most common elbow fracture in childhood. Mechanism: Hyperextension (FOOSH) 90-95% Flexion (Fall on Flexed Elbow) 5-10% Posterior Fat Pad suggests intra-articular effusion and fracture. Complications = Ulnar, Median, and Radial nerve injuries, brachial artery injury, Volkmann s ischemic contracture, COMPARTMENT SYNDROME Associated Distal radius Fracture in ~5% of cases Palpate the wrist! Attempts in the ED at partial reduction leads to increase soft tissue injury and swelling, which will complicate the definitive reduction in the OR.