Metabolic presentations part 2: children and adolescents

Cite this article as:
Taciane Alegra. Metabolic presentations part 2: children and adolescents, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.28592

Neurological symptoms in a healthy teen

Jane, 14 years old, is brought in by ambulance, unconscious after a 20-minute generalized tonic-clonic seizure at home. She’s wheeled into resus, and while she has a cannula inserted, you take a history from her father. You learn that she has been a healthy child who’s never had a seizure before, with no chronic conditions, no history of drug abuse, no acute illness, and no sick contacts. She’s a vegetarian and enjoys dancing. She’s started a new ‘intermittent fasting diet’ and yesterday hadn’t eaten since brunch. She went to bed early and this morning her mother was woken early by strange sounds coming from Jane’s room and found her seizing on the floor. 

Her primary survey shows that she’s maintaining her airway, is tachypnoeic with oxygen saturations of 98% in air and clear lungs, a normal cardiovascular examination and a GCS of 10, with global hyperreflexia.

This adolescent has an acute onset of neurological symptoms. The differential diagnoses are broad, but her symptoms were precipitated by a new diet that required prolonged fasting. This case is a red flag for a metabolic condition! 

The RCPCH Decreased Consciousness (DeCon) guideline lays out an approach to the child with a decreased conscious level, including differentials, investigations and management (take a look at the DeCon poster and summary guidance). 

You send some bloods and, as suggested by the RCPCH DeCon guideline, you include an ammonia.

Some points to remember

Common things are common: sepsis, CNS infections, intoxication (prescribed and recreational drugs), and primary seizure disorders should all be considered here, but extend your differentials to conditions that can be individually rare but are common as a group: metabolic diseases.

All children presenting with a decreased conscious level, regardless of age, should have an ammonia sent as part of their initial investigation in ED… this could be a case of an undiagnosed urea cycle defect. 

In late onset urea cycle defects, acute metabolic encephalopathy develops following metabolic stress precipitated by a rapid increase in nitrogen load from: 

  • infection
  • trauma
  • rapid weight loss and auto-catabolism
  • increase in protein turnover from steroids
  • surgery and childbirth
  • or other precipitants of protein catabolism.

Adolescents and adults with an undiagnosed urea cycle defect may be completely fit and well, but may have chronic symptoms such as headache, cyclical vomiting, behavioural difficulties, psychiatric symptoms or mild learning difficulties.

They may be selective vegetarians, restricting their protein intake.

Between episodes patients are relatively well. However, acute presentations can be fatal or patients may be left with a neurological deficit.

For more information about cycle urea disorders, check out Metabolic presentations part 1.

The take home

Always send an ammonia in any child presenting with an acute encephalopathy or decreased GCS.

Disorders involving energy metabolism

Next up is Liz, a patient with a diagnosed metabolic disorder.

Liz is a 3-year-old girl from the countryside, who is visiting her grandmother in the city. She has had diarrhoea since yesterday and started vomiting last night. In the last 3 hours, she hasn’t been able to tolerate anything orally. There has been no fever or respiratory symptoms and she is passing urine as normal. Her 5-year-old cousin has similar symptoms. 

Her Grandmother informs you that Liz has MCAD deficiency and her emergency plan was tried at home, without success. Liz is not usually treated at your hospital and you don’t have her chart. Unfortunately, Liz’s grandmother didn’t bring the plan to the hospital. 

Liz looks tired and is mildly dehydrated, but smiles at you. Her heart sounds are normal and her chest is clear. She has increased bowel sounds, a soft abnormal with mild diffuse pain on deep palpation and no masses or organomegaly. She’s afebrile but tachycardic at 165, her capillary  refill time is 3 seconds, and her systolic BP is 104mmHg.

You put in a cannula and measure bedside glucose and ketones. Liz has a hypoketotic hypoglycaemia.

What is MCAD deficiency?

Medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD) is the most common fatty acid oxidation disorder in Caucasians in Northern Europe and the United States. Most children are now diagnosed through newborn screening. In fatty acid oxidation disorders, the body can only partially break down fat.

Let’s recap some basic biochemistry: in prolonged fasting, the body’s normal response is to break down fat to create ketones, as an alternative source of energy. However, children with MCAD deficiency can’t produce large amounts of ketones, so their ketone response is not appropriate to the degree of hypoglycaemia. 

Clinical symptoms in a previously apparently healthy child with MCAD deficiency include hypoketotic hypoglycemia and vomiting that may progress to lethargy, seizures, and coma, triggered by a common illness. Hepatomegaly and liver disease are often present during an acute episode. These children appear well at birth and, if not identified through newborn screening, typically present between 3 and 24 months of age, although presentation even as late as adulthood is possible. The prognosis is excellent once the diagnosis is established and frequent feedings are instituted to avoid any prolonged periods of fasting (Merritt and Chang, 2019).

Children with fatty acid oxidation disorders (medium, long and short chain defects) have typical acylcarnitine patterns. This is one of the reasons acylcarnitines are sent as part of metabolic and hypoglycaemia work-ups.

What is the priority in acute presentations?

Children who have MCADD, like Liz, need extra calories when sick. The most important intervention is to give simple carbohydrates by mouth, such as glucose tablets or sweetened, non-diet beverages, or intravenously if needed to reverse catabolism and sustain anabolism. In Liz’s case, she’s vomiting all oral intake so cannot tolerate oral carbohydrates, so the intravenous route is necessary. 

The key priorities are:

  • Correct hypoglycaemia immediately with 200mg/kg glucose: 2 ml/kg of 10% glucose or 1ml/kg of 20% glucose, over a few minutes. 
  • Treat shock or circulatory compromise with a bolus of 20ml/kg 0.9% sodium chloride. 
  • Give maintenance fluids with potassium once the plasma potassium concentration is known and the child is passing urine. 

Where can you find resources?

The British Inherited Metabolic Disease Group, BIMDG, has specific guidance on their website.

Disorders involving storage of complex molecules

Mike is 12 years old, presenting to the ED with cough and fever. He has been coughing for 10 days, worse progressively in the last 5  and febrile for the last 3 days. He’s been lethargic since yesterday and even when afebrile he looks unwell. His appetite is poor and he has been “sipping some apple juice”. You learn from his mother that he has a condition called Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) type I and is receiving treatment with “the enzyme”. Every now and again, “he is chesty and needs to come to hospital”. 

You examine Mike. He’s pink and well hydrated, but looks sick. You notice that he is shorter than an average 12 year old boy, has hand contractures and coarse facial features. 

He has a soft systolic cardiac murmur with good pulse volume. On auscultating his chest you hear creps and rhonchi on the right side. He has mild hepatomegaly and an umbilical hernia. 

His temperature is 37.5ºC, heart rate is132, respiratory rate 30, and oxygen saturations are just 88% in air.

A bit about mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS)

In mucopolysaccharidosis disorders, the body is unable to break down mucopolysaccharide sugar chains. These mucopolysaccharide sugars build up in cells, blood and connective tissue: hence the name, ‘storage disorders’.

In general, most affected people appear healthy at birth and experience a period of normal development, followed by a decline in physical and/or mental function.

As the condition progresses, it may affect appearance; physical abilities; organ function; and, in most cases, cognitive development. 

Most cases are inherited in an autosomal recessive manner, although one specific form (Type II) follows an X-linked pattern of inheritance. 

Specific treatment can be provided via enzyme replacement therapy or haematopoietic stem cell transplantation in the early stages. 

Presently, enzyme replacement therapy is available for MPS I, II and VI and is given as an intravenous infusion either weekly or biweekly, depending on the disease. 

Both enzyme-replacement and haemotopoietic stem cell treatments still have gaps and few clinical trials supporting them. (rarediseases.info; Dornelles et.al, 2014).

What treatment should be started in the ED?

Patients with Mucopolysaccharidosis don’t require any emergency treatment in the ED for their underlying metabolic disease. They are, however, at increased risk of respiratory infections.

Mike is likely to have a community acquired pneumonia and needs to be treated accordingly with oxygen and antibiotics.

References

Adam , HH. Ardinger, RA. Pagon, S. E. Wallis, L. J. H. Bean, K. Stephens, & A. Amemiya (Eds.), GeneReviews® [online book]

Merritt JL,  Chang IJ. Medium-Chain Acyl-Coenzyme A Dehydrogenase Deficiency.  GeneReviews® [online book], June 2019. Available at  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1424/

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/7065/mucopolysaccharidosis 

Dornelles AD et al. Enzyme replacement therapy for Mucopolysaccharidosis Type I among patients followed within the MPS Brazil Network. Genet Mol Biol. 2014

Subtle Signs in Safeguarding: Giles Armstrong at DFTB19

Cite this article as:
Team DFTB. Subtle Signs in Safeguarding: Giles Armstrong at DFTB19, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.22259

Giles Armstrong reminds us that curiosity is needed for all of our young patients and that without it, we cannot truly care for them. We have to be the detectives and be prepared to ask the questions, not just to the routine questions, but to the unspoken ones. Giles presents us with some challenging, but very realistic scenarios, in which it is easy to miss the subtle clues if you don’t look for them.

This talk was recorded live at DFTB19 in London, England. With the theme of  “The Journey” we wanted to consider the journeys our patients and their families go on, both metaphorical and literal.

If you want our podcasts delivered straight to your listening device then subscribe to our iTunes feed or check out the RSS feed. If you are more a fan of the visual medium then subscribe to our YouTube channel. Please embrace the spirit of FOAMed and spread the word.

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Preserving fertility in oncology patients: Dan Yeomanson at DFTB19

Cite this article as:
Team DFTB. Preserving fertility in oncology patients: Dan Yeomanson at DFTB19, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.22384
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Dan Yeomanson is a paediatric oncologist dealing with teenagers and young people with cancer. Whilst the future ability to become a parent is not something that immediately springs to mind when a new diagnosis of cancer is made, you can be sure it is on the mind of the parents and the patient in front of you.

Of the ten patients that are diagnosed with cancer on any given day in England, eight will survive and one will be rendered infertile by their treatment.

 

DoodleMedicine sketch by @char_durand

This talk was recorded live at DFTB19 in London, England. With the theme of  “The Journey” we wanted to consider the journeys our patients and their families go on, both metaphorical and literal.

If you want our podcasts delivered straight to your listening device then subscribe to our iTunes feed or check out the RSS feed. If you are more a fan of the visual medium then subscribe to our YouTube channel. Please embrace the spirit of FOAMed and spread the word.

iTunes Button
 

 

Communicating with children with additional needs: Liz Herrieven at DFTB19

Cite this article as:
Team DFTB. Communicating with children with additional needs: Liz Herrieven at DFTB19, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.21387

Communication is vitally important in so much we do as clinicians.  Without good communication we can’t hope to get a decent history, properly examine our patient, explain what we think is going on or ensure appropriate management.

How to be an LGBTQIA+ young persons ally

Cite this article as:
Dani Hall. How to be an LGBTQIA+ young persons ally, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.23101

You know what the rainbow symbol is, right? It’s become synonymous with LGBT+ identity, solidarity and support and from Pride week to day-to-day living you’re likely to spot one fairly regularly. But, you probably also know that LGBT+ people are a minority group within our society, with huge inequalities in provision of healthcare, which is tragic given that this group have huge healthcare needs. As a step towards tackling this, national health services like the NHS and HSE (Ireland’s health service) have incorporated the rainbow with their logos and put them on a pin to show that the wearer is an LGBT+ ally, someone who an LGBT+ person can feel comfortable talking to about issues relating to sexuality or gender identity, someone who will listen to them with respect, someone who’ll create a safe space for discussion.

 

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably an advocate for LGBT+ rights. You might even have an NHS or HSE rainbow badge. Great! But wearing a badge is only one step towards being an ally. The wearer must feel confident that they will treat the young person with respect and that they’ll know what to do if a young person discloses to them. The wearer may be the first person a young person has ever felt confident enough to open up to about how they feel; it may be one of the most important moments of that LGBT+ young person’s life.

So, how can you be an LGBT+ young person’s ally?

You don’t need a rainbow badge (of course you don’t) to be an LGBT+ young person’s ally. But there are a few things that will help you on your way.

First, you need to understand what LGBT+ means.

Let’s start with some definitions.

 

+: inclusive of all identities (queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual amongst others), regardless of how people define themselves.

There are some key definitions of sexual and gender orientation and expression. Let’s go through them:

Sexual orientation is a description of who we are attracted to romantically or sexually, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, heterosexual.

Gender orientation describes an internal sense of being male, female, neither or both, a psychological sense of who we are and who we feel we are.

Transgender: a person’s gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth.

Cisgender: a person’s gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth.

Non-binary: a person who doesn’t identify as exclusively male or exclusively female.

Gender expression is a description of how we portray ourselves to the world; how we act, speak, talk and dress. It ranges from feminine, through androgynous, to masculine.

These definitions are explained perfectly by the Genderbread person.

 

By Sam Killerman from itspronouncedmetrosexual.com

 

OK. So you know a bit of the lingo. What can you do to be an LGBT+ young person’s ally?

 

Don’t make assumptions

We live in a heteronormative environment (where being heterosexual is considered the norm) and people often make heteronormative assumptions. This means we may make an unconscious assumption that heterosexual is ‘normal’ without even realizing we’re doing it. The example on HSEland’s LGBT+ Awareness and Inclusion e-learning module is a classic example of this…

Katy is an 8-year-old girl who has been brought to the emergency department by her two mum’s, Jill and Freda. She’s called into triage and, after inviting them to sit down, the triage nurse asks, “Which one of you is Katy’s mum?” Jill replies by saying, “Actually, we’re a family with two mothers.”

The triage nurse made a heteronormative assumption here. A more inclusive approach would have been for the triage nurse to ask Katy to introduce each of the ladies accompanying her. But, until we can shake heteronormative assumptions, it can be easily done; if you do make a heteronormative assumption, apologize and move on. And make an effort not to make a similar mistake next time.

Another assumption that’s often made is about a young person’s sexual identity based on their sexual behaviour.

Suzy is a 15-year-old girl who attends the emergency department with abdominal pain and dysuria. Her urine sample is dipped – no nitrites or leucocytes, but her beta-HCG is positive. She’s pregnant. With this information in hand, you go in and, after some gentle questioning (you’re pretty good at building rapport), you ask her how old her boyfriend is.  She looks at you with disdain and replies, “I don’t have a boyfriend.” Blustering a little, you ask whether she and her boyfriend have broken up. “I’ve never had a boyfriend,” she replies.

Suzy is attracted sexually and romantically to girls and has a girlfriend called Melissa.  And you’ve just lost her trust by assuming she was straight.  Adolescent lesbian and bisexual girls are also at risk of unintended pregnancies and acquiring sexually transmitted infections.

Yet another assumption people make is cis-normativity, the belief, or unconscious assumption, that that it is ‘normal’ to be cis-gendered.  It’s explained all too well by Emily, an 11-year-old transgender girl in the Mermaid’s #IfIHadAVoice video.

 

 

Once you feel you can actively make an effort not to make any assumptions, what else can you do to be an LGBT+ young person ally?

 

Use inclusive language

It can feel artificial to start with, but try and break the heteronormative barrier and ask a young person what their chosen gender or pronouns are.

Samuel is a transgender boy. His assigned gender at birth was female and the name on his birth certificate is Samantha. He has breast buds and looks feminine. You introduce yourself to Sam and his mother, Sandra, but as you’re explaining to Sandra that you’d like to speak to Sam alone, you say, “Would you mind stepping outside the room, while Sam and I speak together first? I’ll call you back in after I’ve examined her.” Sam looks stricken and Sandra gently explains that Sam is a transgender boy and uses the pronouns he/him.

If you accidentally misgender someone, apologize and correct yourself.  We often don’t know what name or pronouns someone would like us to use, and it’s safest to assume nothing and ask (and I mean ask everyone, because you will be caught out if you don’t), “How would you like us to record your details in the medical record?”

What about sexual orientation?  A sensitive way to ask a young person about their sexual identity is to ask if they have a partner or if they’re in a relationship. If they don’t have a partner, ask them if they’re attracted to boys, girls, either or neither.  Let’s think about Suzy again.

You’re about to see Suzy, a 15-year-old girl who attends the emergency department with abdominal pain and a positive urine beta-HCG. You call her into a cubicle and introduce yourself. After taking a history of her presenting complaint and past medical history, you start a HEEADSSS assessment (more on that later). Even though you know Suzy is pregnant, you know it doesn’t mean she’s heterosexual. As you start talking with Suzy about sexuality and gender identity, you ask her, “Are you attracted to boys, girls, neither or either?”

See what you’ve done here? Suzy can now tell you that she’s in a relationship with Melissa without breaking that rapport you’d already established, paving the way for further exploration about her sexual behaviour.

 

Reassure the young person their sexual or gender identity will be kept confidential

Let’s take a step back in time. Suzy may not feel comfortable telling you about her sexual orientation as she might be worried about whether you’ll keep this information confidential. Confidentiality is a huge one. We may feel torn between sharing information about a young person who’s at risk and maintaining confidentiality. Before you start taking a history, explain to a young person that anything you discuss will be kept confidential and private, between the young person and the team looking after them, but if you discuss anything really serious, like suicide or that someone was abusing them, then you’ll come up with a plan together to get the help needed. But, and this is an important but, even if there’s something that you need to seek help for, you’ll keep their sexual or gender identity confidential if this is what they want – this is private to them and you shouldn’t be outing the young person against their wishes.

 

Adapt the HEEADSSS assessment

We mentioned the HEEADSSS assessment.  HEEADSSS is a structured psychosocial history tool.  But when you use it, adapt it.

 

H: Home environment

Up to 40% of young people experiencing homelessness internationally are LGBT+ with figures estimated to be as high as 45% in Canada and 24% in the UK, with similar patterns reported in Ireland. A report by the Albert Kennedy Trust found that more than two-thirds of LGBT homeless young people in the UK have experienced familial rejection, abuse and violence and shockingly almost 1 in 10 16 and 17 year olds have undergone or been offered conversion therapy.

E: Education / Employment

Bullying is rife in schools. 1 in 2 LGBT+ young people in the UK and Ireland experience anti-LGBT bullying at school while 1 in 4 Irish LBGTI young people skip school to avoid anti-LGBTI bullying.

E – Eating disorders

Eating disorders are sadly also much higher in LGBT+ young people. Transgender young people are 4 times more likely to have an eating disorder compared to their cisgender peers. That’s 15% of transgender young people of any sexual orientation reporting an eating disorder (data from a national sample of almost 300,000 young American students). But it’s not just transgender young people at risk of eating disorders: any LGBT+ young person is at higher risk of an eating disorder of any type.

A – Activities

Enquire about activities. LGBT+ young people are less likely to participate in sports  than their heterosexual peers. Enquiring about their leisure time may reveal risk-taking behaviour (we’ll come to that under S for Safety).

D – Drugs and alcohol

Drugs and alcohol are also a problem for LGBT+ young people. Not only are LGBT+ young people more likely to use drugs and alcohol than their heterosexual peers, LGBT+ people under the age of 13 are more likely to have tried alcohol or marijuana than heterosexual young people aged 12 and under.

S – Sexuality

LGBT+ young people are more likely to have had sexual intercourse, have had sexual intercourse before the age of 13 and less likely to use birth control than their heterosexual peers. Birth control, that’s a big one. Remember I said earlier that teen pregnancy occurs in lesbian teenagers just as it does in cis-gendered adolescent girls? The same is true for STIs. I don’t need to say that questions around sexuality and gender identity must be asked sensitively, in a non-judgmental way, without assumption, about sexual identity and gender identity.

S – Suicide, depression and self-harm

It’s widely quoted, but mental health difficulties are much higher in LGBT+ young people, very likely related to a feeling of isolation and non-inclusion and as a result of verbal and physical abuse. More than 50% of Irish LGBTI young people aged 14-18 have self-harmed; 2 in 3 have seriously considered ending their life and tragically 1 in 3 have attempted suicide. The most common age for an Irish LGBT person to attempt to take their life is 15. These are shockingly high. But Irish LGBT+ young people mental health statistics mirror those across the world, in the UK, Australasia and North America.

S – Safety

Being LGBT+ can be lonely. LGBT+ young people are more likely to use dating apps to meet people.  You can just imagine the risk this exposes them to: unsafe sexual encounters, child sexual exploitation, and grooming. Statistics support this. These young people are more likely than their heterosexual peers to be physically or sexually assaulted.  Risky behaviour doesn’t end there. LGBT+ young people are also more likely to undertake another risky behaviour, such as not wearing a seatbelt.  Gently explore risk-taking behaviour.

 

I ask myself, “Why are all these problems seen in young people with an LGBT+ identity?” It’s likely due to minority stress – the stress associated with being treated as a minority group within our society.

 

Be an ally

Knowing the different LGBT+ terms isn’t important. What is important is listening with respect, not making assumptions and creating a safe space for discussion. An ally supports equal rights for LGBT+ people and let’s face it, we’re in healthcare because we want to help people. Healthcare is for everyone.

You may be the first person an LGBT+ young person meets in their acute healthcare. You may be the person they confide in. Their interaction with you may be one of the most important moments of their life

 

 

Where can I find out more?

Watch:

Thom O’Neill’s Be a supr doc for LGBT+ youth, SMACCDub

Aidan Baron’s Crash course in LGBTQI+, DFTB17

Read:

Butler G et al. Assessment and support of children and adolescents with gender dysphoria. Arch Dis Child 2018; 103 (7): 631-636

O’Neill T, Wakefield J. Fifteen-minute consultation in the normal child: Challenges relating to sexuality and gender identity in children and young people. Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed 2017; 102: 298–303

Salkind J et al. Safeguarding LGBT+ adolescents. BMJ 2019;364:l245

 

 

Selected references

Charlton BM et al. Teen pregnancy risk factors among young women of diverse sexual orientations. Pediatrics. 2018: 141(4); e20172278

LGBT youth homelessness: a UK national scoping of cause, prevalence, response, and outcome: the Albert Kennedy Trust, 2015

UK Government Equalities Office. National LGBT Survey: Research report. 2018. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-lgbt-survey-summary-report

Higgins et al. The LGBTIreland Report: national study of the mental health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Ireland. 2016. GLEN and BeLonGTo

Diemer EW et al. Gender identity, sexual orientation, and eating-related pathology in a national sample of college students. J Adolesc Health 2015;57:144–9.doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.03.003

Kann L et al. Sexual identity, sex of sexual contacts, and health-related behaviors among students in grades 9-12 – United States and selected sites, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2016;65:1–202

Calzo JP et al. Eating disorders and disordered weight and shape control behaviors in sexual minority populations. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017; 19(8): 49

School Report. The experiences of lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people in Britain’s schools in 2017. Stonewall.

Bidell MP. Is there an emotional cost of completing high school? Ecological factors and psychological distress among LGBT homeless youth. Journal of Homosexuality. 2014:61(3);366-381

Abramovich IA. No safe place to go: LGBTQ youth homelessness in Canada: reviewing the literature. Canadian Journal of Family and Youth. 2012:4(1);29-51

https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/mental-health-services/connecting-for-life/publications/lgbt-ireland-report.html

Back to School

Cite this article as:
Andrew Tagg. Back to School, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.23086

It’s the first day of school here in Australia and parents and carers are waving their young children off with a kiss for their first day.  When I first saw the size of school bags I was amazed. How can children carry so much? Surely they will just fall over and lie on their backs waving their little legs in the air like distressed turtles? What on earth are they carrying in there that needs the Bag of Holding?*

 

 

What’s the problem?

Barbosa J, Marques MC, Izquierdo M, Neiva HP, Barbosa TM, Ramírez-Vélez R, Alonso-Martínez AM, García-Hermoso A, Aguado-Jimenez R, Marinho DA. Schoolbag weight carriage in Portuguese children and adolescents: a cross-sectional study comparing possible influencing factors. BMC pediatrics. 2019 Dec;19(1):157.

With reduced access to lockers, it seems that children are taking the weight of the world on their shoulders. Surprisingly, this Portuguese group found that Grade 5 children carried more than Grade 9 kids. This trend has been replicated in New Zealand with Grade 3 kids carrying around 7kg (13.2% of their body weight) and Grade 6 leavers bearing only 6.3Kg (10.3% body weight). Most school items have a set weight, no matter what grade you are in, but one might have thought that as the educational load increases over the years so might the weight of the textbooks. Perhaps an increase in the use of personal electronic devices and e-books accounts for some of this difference.

Surely carrying those giant bags can’t be good for the growing body? Neck, back, and shoulder pain are prevalent in adolescents and are closely linked by carrying heavy school bags. These effects take place when the bag weighs more than 10% of their body weight. In nearly every study girls carry more than boys. This makes sense as although they may carry exactly the same things in their rucksacks girls are generally lighter and so the weight of their bag, as a percentage of their total body weight, is higher.

 

Mandrekar S, Chavhan D, Shyam AK, Sancheti PK. Effects of carrying school bags on cervical and shoulder posture in static and dynamic conditions in adolescent students. International journal of adolescent medicine and health. 2019 Oct 30.

This group looked at how they carry their bags. Trying to be cool and swinging your bag over just one shoulder changes one’s static biomechanics.  The head and neck move forward to compensate and the carrying shoulder rises. Then, because the centre of gravity is shifted the subject would tilt their torso away. Could this be the cause of the stereotypical teenage posture? It took just five minutes of bag wearing for any postural changes to become evident. It has also been suggested that a heavier bag weight is associated with an increased incidence of lower back pain in teens and this, in turn, is linked with an increased risk of lower back pain as an adult.

If they are not wearing their back slung over one shoulder they are wearing it slung low, rather than high and tight on their shoulders, and most of the biomechanic data suggests this puts a lower degree of stress on their lumbar spines than letting it ride high. The higher position also lends itself to more forward rotation of the pelvis and greater hip flexion. And, of course, wearing your bag on the front, instead of on the back, causes a whole new range of issues.

Harmless?

Whilst this post is focusing on just one potential downside of heavy school bags, Wierseema et al. found 247 children with injuries related to backpack use between 1999-2000. These were due to tripping over them (28%), getting hit by one (13%) or just trying to put them on (8%). Actually wearing the thing was associated with another 13% of complaints – specifically back pain.

There is also a condition called backpack palsy or, to be more accurate, backpack brachial plexus palsy. It is much more common in military recruits but can occur in children. Often unilateral, the paraesthesia, pain and sensory loss in addition to possible muscle wasting are due to neuropraxia of the brachial plexus.

Losing weight?

Does it make a difference if teenagers take some of the rubbish out of their bags?

Rodríguez-Oviedo P, Santiago-Pérez MI, Pérez-Ríos M, Gómez-Fernández D, Fernández-Alonso A, Carreira-Núñez I, García-Pacios P, Ruano-Ravina A. Backpack weight and back pain reduction: effect of an intervention in adolescents. Pediatric research. 2018 Jul;84(1):34.

This Spanish group targetted teenagers with an educational intervention. This comprised of a one-hour session on posture, the effects of backpack weight and some healthy lifestyle advice. They found that the intervention arm of the trial did indeed have (statistically significant) lighter bags moving forward in the younger cohorts but not in the older ones.

Strapping in?

Mathur H, Desai A, Khan SA. To determine the efficacy of addition of horizontal waist strap to the traditional double shoulder strap school backpack loading on cervical and shoulder posture in Indian school-going children. Int J Phys Med Rehabil. 2017;5(434):2.

If you want to reduce the usual bag-induced postural slump these authors, looking at 60 children, suggest that adding a waist strap to the usual two shoulder straps could make all the difference.

So what does this all mean?

As parents, we need to keep an eye on what our children are actually putting in their bags (compared to what they say they are putting in there). Perhaps we should weigh the bags as often as the children and limit the number of keyrings and Beanie Boos attached to the outside? Perhaps we need to further embrace technology and allow for the increased use of electronic devices coupled with a much, much older technology and let them use bags on wheels, similar to carry on luggage?

There have been a number of initiatives to make the wearing of school backpacks healthier. Sri Lanka introduced a National Healthy Schoolbag Campaign aimed at improving the lives of children. Large textbooks were split into smaller volumes to make it easier to carry just one small book around and a multidisciplinary schoolbag regulatory council was set up to liaise with industry partners to help regulate bags. In the US the “Pack it light, wear it right” initiative focussed on what the individual could do.

 

*If you really want to know what is in their bags you need to look inside. This wonderful paper from Archives suggests that the vast majority (96%) of parents had never checked the weight of their children’s bags and 34% had never even looked inside

Forjuoh SN, Little D, Schuchmann JA, Lane BL. Parental knowledge of school backpack weight and contents. Archives of disease in childhood. 2003 Jan 1;88(1):18-9.

 

Other Selected References:

American Academy of Pediatrics. How not to wear a school backpack. AAP Grand Rounds. 2008 Nov 1;20(5):58-9.

Brackley HM, Stevenson JM. Are children’s backpack weight limits enough?: A critical review of the relevant literature. Spine. 2004 Oct 1;29(19):2184-90.

Kim KE, Kim EJ. Incidence and risk factors for backpack palsy in young Korean soldiers. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 2016 Feb 1;162(1):35-8.

Goodgold S, Corcoran M, Gamache D, Gillis J, Guerin J, Coyle JQ. Backpack use in children. Pediatric physical therapy: the official publication of the Section on Pediatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association. 2002;14(3):122-31.

Jayaratne K, Jacobs K, Fernando D. Global healthy backpack initiatives. Work. 2012 Jan 1;41(Supplement 1):5553-7.

Maurya S, Singh M, Bhandari PS, Bhatti TS. Backpack brachial plexus palsy. Indian Journal of Neurotrauma. 2009 Dec;6(02):153-4.

Rose K, Davies A, Pitt M, Ratnasinghe D, D’Argenzio L. Backpack palsy: A rare complication of backpack use in children and young adults–A new case report. european journal of paediatric neurology. 2016 Sep 1;20(5):750-3.

Talbott NR, Bhattacharya A, Davis KG, Shukla R, Levin L. School backpacks: it’s more than just a weight problem. Work. 2009 Jan 1;34(4):481-94.

Weir E. Avoiding the back-to-school backache. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association journal= journal de l’Association medicale canadienne. 2002 Sep;167(6):669-.

Wiersema BM, Wall EJ, Foad SL. Acute backpack injuries in children. Pediatrics. 2003 Jan 1;111(1):163-6.

Catch 22

Cite this article as:
Ana Waddington. Catch 22, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2019. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.19122

James was 13 the first time I treated him in A&E. He was rushed in after being hit on the head with a metal bar, but he wouldn’t tell us what had happened. Some others had seen him, rushed him, started beating him with bats and bars – that was all he said he remembered. It was clear that James was already deeply involved in the world of gang violence, and it was equally clear that if he wasn’t saved from it soon this world would destroy him. We tried to get James to stay in A&E long enough to hear the results of his scan, but as soon as he got a chance he slipped out and back onto the streets. My fear was that before long the streets would deliver him back to us, only this time he wouldn’t be able to walk out again.

Legal and Ethical Quandaries: Ian Summers at DFTB18

Cite this article as:
Team DFTB. Legal and Ethical Quandaries: Ian Summers at DFTB18, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2019. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.18919

When most of us think of ethics and law our eyes roll and we picture Rumpole of the Bailey and quiet Sunday afternoons in front of the television. But his time Ian Summers came up with something unique. Pushing the boundaries of simulation as an educational medium he introduced us to a series of hypotheticals. Take your time to watch rather than just listen to your iDevice. You’ll learn about ethical practice in paediatrics but if you pause, take a step back, and press play again, you’ll see a masterclass of simulation in action.

 

 

 

This talk was recorded live at DFTB18 in Melbourne, Australia. With the theme of ‘Science and Story‘ we pushed our speakers to step out of their comfort zones and consider why we do what we do. Caring for children is not just about acquiring the scientific knowhow but also about taking a look beyond a diagnosis or clinical conundrum at the patient and their families.

 

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An approach to irritability and pain in the severely neurologically impaired child.

Cite this article as:
Henry Goldstein. An approach to irritability and pain in the severely neurologically impaired child., Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2019. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.18178

Logan is a 6yo who is presented to ED by his mother, one Tuesday evening as “just not himself“. Logan is well known to your local paediatric team for management of his GMFCS 5 spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He has a long list of comorbidities, frequent hospital attendance and multiple unplanned admissions for, variously, aspiration pneumonia, seizures or irritability ?cause.

Five go on an adventure: hosted by Deb Shellshear at DFTB18

Cite this article as:
Team DFTB. Five go on an adventure: hosted by Deb Shellshear at DFTB18, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2019. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.17621

This talk was recorded live at DFTB18 in Melbourne, Australia. With the theme of ‘Science and Story’ we pushed our speakers to step out of their comfort zones and consider why we do what we do. Caring for children is not just about acquiring the scientific knowhow but also about taking a look beyond a diagnosis or clinical conundrum at the patient and their families.

Abnormal Treatment Behaviour: Jannie Geertsema at DFTB18

Cite this article as:
Team DFTB. Abnormal Treatment Behaviour: Jannie Geertsema at DFTB18, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2019. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.17711

This talk was recorded live at DFTB18 in Melbourne, Australia. With the theme of ‘Science and Story’ we pushed our speakers to step out of their comfort zones and consider why we do what we do. Caring for children is not just about acquiring the scientific knowhow but also about taking a look beyond a diagnosis or clinical conundrum at the patient and their families. Tickets for DFT19, which will be held in London, UK, are now on sale from www.dftb19.com.

Jannie Geertsema is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Queensland Children’s Hospital. In this talk he reminds us of one of the challenges that faces all doctors – who are we actually treating? Is it the child in front of us, is it their mother, is it the family dynamic?