Volcano

Managing Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease

Cite this article as:
Sarah Davies. Managing Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.29563

Isobel is a 10 week old, exclusively breast-fed, baby girl. She is brought into the Emergency Department with a history of frequent vomiting and poor weight gain. Her examination is normal, but when you ask Isobel’s exhausted-looking mother to put her to the breast, she becomes fractious and fussy, pulling away, arching her back, and taking very little feed at all.  

What are you going to do? 

At face value, this familiar presentation sounds like gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), although the differential for a ten-week old with vomiting and weight loss is wide.

Gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR) is …the effortless retrograde passage of gastric contents into the oesophagus, with or without overt regurgitation. 

It is:

  • Physiological, due to low tone in the immature lower oesophageal sphincter
  • Common, occurring in up to 50% infants under 6m
  • Frequent – can happen up to x6/day

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) can be diagnosed clinically when GOR is accompanied by troublesome symptoms that affect everyday functioning (eg crying, back-arching, food refusal) and may lead to complications (eg failure to thrive).

Alternative diagnoses should be considered when there are additional red flag features (see below) indicative of a different pathology and under these circumstances, investigations should be tailored to rule these in or out.

*Some red flags overlap with symptoms directly related to GORD. The number, duration and severity of these should inform your decision to investigate on a case by case basis

As Isobel has symptoms of GORD with faltering growth you check her head circumference (which is appropriate), dip a urine (which is negative), and send some bloods for a faltering growth screen (although you strongly suspect they will come back as normal). You explain to Isobel’s mother that there is a stepwise approach to the management of GORD starting with non-pharmacological measures.

So, in the absence of red flag symptoms, do I need to prove its GORD?

In short, no. There is no single gold standard test for the diagnosis of GORD, hence the emphasis on clinical diagnosis. 

Invasive testing does have a place, though it is rarely the job of an ED clinician to be considering this. 

Endoscopy is used under the guidance of a Paediatric Gastroenterologist, for infants who fail to respond to optimal medical management. This will diagnose erosions and eosinophilic oesophagitis. 

pH MII (multi-channel intraluminal impedance) monitoring is used in children whose symptoms persist despite optimal medical therapy with normal endoscopy.   For a great explanation of this technique this previous DFTB post on reflux from 2016

Barium is out. Reliable biomarkers don’t yet exist. Scintigraphy, ultrasound and trial of a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) are not useful in babies. 

OK, so I only need to investigate if I think there may be another cause for the symptom. But what should be my initial approach to treatment?

  • Positional management?
  • Avoiding overfeeding?
  • Thickening feeds?

Positional management – keeping the baby upright after feeds and elevating the head of the cot to sleep – is often advised for reflux. However, a study by Loots and colleagues in 2014 showed that regurgitation was only reduced through the use of side-lying positions which should NEVER be recommended due to the increased risk of SIDS. Head elevation made no difference at all despite some evidence that it can be beneficial in adults. 

And whilst a common-sense approach would support a move to smaller more frequent feedings and keeping a baby upright for 20-30 minutes after a feed, there isn’t any good quality evidence that confirms this. 

Feed thickeners have been shown repeatedly to reduce the frequency of visible regurgitation episodes in babies with reflux and in some studies to decrease cry/fuss behaviour too. They are safe and come highly recommended as a first-line intervention for babies with troublesome reflux. If you are going to advise a thickener for a breastfed infant, it’s important to suggest a carob bean-based product, such as Carobel, because the amylase in breast milk will digest the rice cereal-based thickeners such as Cerelac.  

Acupuncture, probiotics, massage, hypnotherapy have not yet been adequately studied for us to say one way or another if they are of any benefit. And alginates, probably the most familiar to us being Gaviscon? We’ll cover those shortly.

The key thing to remember for any intervention, is to reserve these for your patients with GORD. Happy, thriving, refluxy babies, typically outgrow their symptoms as they transition to solid food and should be left well alone

OK, but what if my patient has tried these already? What should I advise next? 

First, check how long they have persisted with the intervention. 

One of the biggest reasons for the simpler interventions not to help with GORD is that they are not given enough time to make a difference. Having said that, if a tired parent is repeatedly confronted with a grizzly, uncomfortable baby who is refusing to feed, asking them to persevere for two weeks with an intervention they don’t think is helping, may be practically difficult to achieve. 

In the UK, we have a choice of two key guidelines to help us with the next steps in reflux management.  

  1. NICE, last updated 2019

OR

  1. ESPGHAN/NASPGHAN 2018 joint consensus guidelines which are endorsed and recommended by our own BSPGHAN
  • European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
  • North American Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
  • British Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Except that these guidelines differ a little on the advice they give for when simple measures don’t help…

NICE recommend a trial of Gaviscon first, and if that doesn’t work 4-8 weeks of a PPI such as omeprazole, and only then suggest a trial of cow’s milk protein exclusion (either through use of a hydrolysed formula or maternal dairy exclusion in breastfed infants) as a last resort, if reflux does not improve after ‘optimal medical management’. 

NASPGHAN/ESPGHAN on the other hand, suggest that ALL infants undergo an initial trial of cow’s milk protein exclusion, and only if this fails do they suggest the use of a PPI or hydrogen receptor antagonist (H2RA) such as Ranitidine. The bottom line is, that no-one has looked at the efficacy of a cow’s milk protein-free diet for symptom relief in babies presenting with reflux as the single symptom of cow’s milk protein intolerance (CMPI).  

The NASPGHAN team argues, that whilst there is no evidence on the topic, there are a number of babies with CMPI manifesting as reflux only who will benefit from this approach. They suggest eliminating cow’s milk protein from an infant’s diet for a minimum of 2 weeks, ideally four. If symptoms resolve and reappear on reintroduction then the diagnosis is clear. 

NASPGHAN then suggest babies who do not respond should be referred to secondary care services and started on a time-limited trial of PPI. 

This is largely so that infants are not left struggling on inadequate therapy for long periods of time, but also because their review found conflicting evidence around the benefit and side effect profile of these medications for young children. 

In six studies looking at PPI versus placebo, four studies showed no difference in regurgitation or other reflux associated symptoms between intervention and control groups. Three studies comparing H2RAs to placebo did show some benefit of the intervention, however, these studies were all in older children with biopsy-proven erosive oesophagitis up to 8 years of age.  Two studies showed endoscopic and histological and clinical features of GORD were reduced with H2RA over placebo, but these were in mixed-age groups including children up to 8 years old.

All studies showed a similar profile of side effects and between drug and placebo arms, however, one study demonstrated an increased rate of infection, in particular lower respiratory tract infection and diarrhoea in the PPI group. 

Given these findings, NASPGHAN cautiously recommends PPI or H2RA therapy in babies who have troublesome reflux despite trying a number of other non-pharmacological management options. 

Their key message is around early referral to secondary care, giving sufficient time for any one intervention to work, and making sure children are appropriately followed up.

So, what should I do? 

Given the somewhat conflicting advice outlined by these two well-respected groups, you could be left feeling unsure how to manage your next case. However, the genuine gap in the evidence market here does mean you are free to exercise your own clinical judgment and tailor your decision making to each individual refluxy baby, whilst empathetically taking on board the thoughts and preferences of the family.  This could, for some babies and parents, be medicine in itself. 

And what about alginates?

Two studies in the large literature review by the NASPGHAN/ESPAGHN group, compare Gavsicon to placebo. They show a reduction in visible regurgitation but no difference in reflux-associated symptoms. Furthermore, infants treated with alginate and then undergoing pH MII for 24 hours, showed no difference in the frequency of regurgitation events between groups. 

Chronic use of alginates causes constipation and poses a theoretical risk of milk-alkali syndrome, which is perhaps why the authors suggest use is limited to short term therapy. NICE do recommend a trial of Gaviscon therapy at an early stage in their pathway, as an alternative to feed thickener, but again on a time-limited basis with a planned review. 

Isobel’s mother had already tried two weeks of feed thickener on recommendation from the GP with no improvement. She was keen to avoid medication if possible so you agreed to a trial of dietary cow’s milk elimination for Mum who would continue to breastfeed and give top-ups with a hydrolysed formula if there was still no weight gain in a week. You gave her a sheet of dietary advice to ensure she maintained her own calcium intake and asked her to see the GP in 2 weeks for a review.  

Take home message

  • The vomiting infant has a wide differential – actively look for red flag features and investigate if you are concerned.
  • Infants with GORD need a management plan; infants with GOR, leave well alone
  • Start simply with an intervention that the family are happy to trial
  • Give time for it to work (up to two weeks)
  • Ensure follow-up for all and onward referral for infants who require acid-suppressive medication 

References

  1. Loots et al. Body positioning and medical therapy for infantile gastroesophageal reflux symptoms. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 2014; 59 (2): 237-243. 
  2. Rosen et al. Pediatric Gastroesophageal Reflux Clinical Practice Guidelines: Joint Recommendations of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition and the European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. JPGN 2018; 66(3): 516-554. 
  3. Winter et al. Efficacy and safety of pantoprazole delayed release granules for oral suspension in a placebo-controlled treatment withdrawal study in infants 1-11 months old with symptomatic GERD. JPGN 2010; 50: 609-618.  
  4. Orenstein et al. Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial assessing the efficacy and safety of proton pump inhibitor lansoprazole in infants with symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Journal of Pediatrics 2009; 154: 514-520e4. 
  5. Davidson et al. Efficacy and safety of once daily omeprazole for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease in neonatal patients. Journal of Pediatrics 2013; 163: 692-698.e1-2. 
  6. Winter et al. Esomeprazole for the treatment of GERD in infants ages 1-11 months. JPGN 2012; 55: 14-20. 
  7. Hussain et al. Safety and efficacy of delayed release rabeprazole in 1-11 month old infants with symptomatic GERD. JPGN 2014; 58: 226-236. 
  8. Moore et al. Double-blind placebo-controlled trial of omeprazole in irritable infants with gastroesophageal reflux. Journal of Pediatrics 2003; 143: 219-223. 
  9. Cucchiara et al. Cimetidine treatment of reflux oesophagitis in children: an Italian multi-centric study. JPGN 1989; 8: 150-156. 
  10. Orenstein et al. Ranitidine, 75mg, over the counter dose: pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic effects in children with symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2002; 16: 899-907. 
  11. Simeone et al. Treatment of childhood peptic esophagitis: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of nizatidine. JPGN 1997; 25: 51-55. 
  12. Miller et al. Comparison of the efficacy and safety of a new aluminium free paediatric alginate preparation and placebo in infants with recurrent gastroesophageal reflux. Current Medicines and Research Opinion 1999; 15: 160-168. 
  13.  Ummarino et al. Effect of magnesium alginate plus simethicone on gastro-oesophageal reflux in infants. JPGN 2015; 60: 230-235.
Picture of house

Hospital in the Home

Cite this article as:
Jo Lawrence. Hospital in the Home, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.28959

Elise is about to have her 8th birthday and has planned a small party at home with her family and two best friends.  Elise also has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and is in the middle of chemotherapy treatment.  Her next dose of methotrexate is due the day after her birthday but requires pre-hydration the day before….

Thomas is in year 3 and loves playing foursquare at lunch with his friends. He also has CF and requires regular tune-ups of 2 weeks IV antibiotics and physiotherapy…..

MaryKate is an 8 month old and the youngest of 5 children.  She has poor oral feeding due to a complex medical background and requires nasogastric top-ups. Her parents have been told that she could wean from the tube if she participated in an intensive multidisciplinary program but are reluctant to attend hospital due to the significant disruption on family routine…..  

Is there a way Elise could enjoy her birthday at home, Thomas stay active at school and MaryKate receive the treatment she needs without significant family disruption?

What is Hospital in the Home?

Hospital in the Home (HITH) refers to hospital level care provided in the home environment. 

As we look at managing our growing population with a fixed number of hospital beds this is one area of healthcare that is set to boom!  

When admitted to HITH, clinicians visit the home and provide the acute care interventions required in 1-2 visits per day.  The advantages of this model of care on hospital flow and access are readily apparent.  Less obvious, although equally critical, are the substantial benefits for the family and patient.  Being treated in a safe place surrounded by familiar faces eases the stress and anxiety experienced by the child. Cost-savings for families obviously include not having to fork out for travel and hospital parking, but the real cost-savings occur for families because both parents no longer have to take carers leave – one for the hospitalized child, the other for the siblings. On average, HITH ends up being one-third of the cost of hospitalization for families1. In addition, HITH avoids disruption to family routines and unwanted separation.

So what can Hospital in the Home do?

Pretty much anything!  As long as the patient is clinically stable (not heading for ICU) and can have their care needs delivered in up to 2 visits per day, then it can be done.  

Traditionally Hospital in the Home models have centred around IV antibiotics and little else, but that has dramatically changed over the past few years. 

Here are some of the common things that paediatric HITHs are currently doing2:

  • Diabetes education
  • Eczema dressings
  • Subcutaneous infusions
  • Chemotherapy
  • Pre and post-hydration for chemotherapy
  • TPN hook ons and hook offs
  • Wound dressings
  • NG feed support
  • Cardiac monitoring
  • CF tunes ups
  • Physiotherapy 
  • IV antibiotics 

Baseline criteria regarding distance from hospital and safety of home environment exist but solutions exist for almost situations.

Although most centres service a certain distance from hospital, care can often be outsourced for children who live more rurally.  The care continues to be managed by the tertiary hospital but provided by local care teams – a superb option.

In cases where a barrier exists for staff to enter the home, creative solutions can be found by meeting children at school, in parks or family member’s homes.  

What has changed with Covid-19?

Whilst paediatric hospitals in general saw a fall in patient presentations, HITH referrals have sky-rocketed.  Doctors and families have experienced renewed interest in moving vulnerable patients out of hospital walls and away from the potential of cross-infection.  Stricter visitor restrictions meant hospitalisation had an even greater impact on family life and the driver to manage care at home wherever possible has grown.

Most of this growth has been through increasing the proportion of eligible children referred rather than creating new pathways.  A couple of children have been admitted for observation of Covid-19 infection, but these cases have been few and far between.

However, as with every area of healthcare delivery, the biggest changes for HITH have been moving with the technology.  Education visits, medical and nursing reviews and physiotherapy have all been converted to telehealth where safe to do so.

Vaccination for influenza was offered to all patients admitted to HITH and was accepted by 70% of eligible patients.  65% of these were being vaccinated for the first time against flu3.  In an environment where routine vaccinations have been falling4, this is a powerful demonstration of the opportunities that exist within HITH.

Infants with bronchiolitis have been managed through HITH before5 but the care pathway has never stuck due to barriers accessing cylinders on the same day and clinician confidence.  A new model has been rolled out overcoming these barriers through utilising oxygen concentrators and remote monitoring.

With time, our use of remote monitoring and ability to feed vital signs directly into the Electronic Medical Record, will allow massive expansion of HITH services.   Predictive modelling from large EMR datasets will allow more accurate prediction of which children are likely to be safely transferred to the home environment.  Realtime data and predictive modelling will enhance clinician and family confidence and enable us to fully realise the benefits of HITH to hospitals and families.  

So what about our friends Elise, Thomas and MaryKate….

Elise is able to receive her pre-hydration at home on her birthday.  She celebrates her birthday in her parent’s bed with her sister beside her, both building her new lego sets.  Her best friends visit and her mother prepares a special meal and bakes a special cake.  She is able to go to bed that night, knowing the HITH nurses will visit every day over the following week to administer her chemotherapy and post-hydration and she has avoided another week in hospital.

The HITH nurses visit Thomas daily before school to connect his longline to a Baxter antibiotic infusion. Before and after school he performs physiotherapy via telehealth.  At school, he wears his antibiotic in a backpack and can continue to play 4 square at lunch.

MaryKate is visited by the HITH dietitian and speech therapy who provide feeding advice and a regime that fits around the family routine. They can see where MaryKate sits for meals and how her meals are prepared first hand and are able to offer some helpful suggestions. The team are also able to visit MaryKate at her daycare and ensure her routine is consistent. In between visits, MaryKate is reviewed via telehealth by the allied health team.  She makes significant oral progress and by the end of 2 weeks, her tube is no longer required.

Time for Telehealth

Cite this article as:
Alison Boast and Allison Hempenstall. Time for Telehealth, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.24401

As the COVID19 pandemic continues to spread and utilize more of our health resources, many clinicians are being asked to minimize in–hospital clinic appointments. While it may seem simple to switch to telehealth for routine clinic appointments, there are a number of factors that need to be considered to make the process as smooth as possible for yourself and your patient and family.

This post will help you make the transition from face–to–face clinic appointments to telehealth. There are even more tips and tricks for assessing children with acute illnesses via telehealth, stay tuned!

 

Is your patient suitable for telehealth review?

If the answer is yes then continue on! There are some factors to consider though.

Need for clinical examination – if a clinical examination plays a key role in decision making telehealth may not be appropriate e.g. features of heart failure in a child requiring correction of a congenital heart defect

Multidisciplinary clinics e.g. cleft palate clinic – it may not be possible for clinics with multiple different providers to be shifted to telehealth

Need for procedures – in some clinics procedures are essential such as dressing changes or immunizations and therefore may not be possible via telehealth or community services

Some of the above barriers may be overcome by collaborating with your patients, their families, local general practitioner, and nurse practitioner; it is worth exploring this as an option.

 

Does your patient and their family have the right technology?

In general, the technology required for telehealth includes:

  • Reliable internet connection (remember that the weather, location and other users online at the time can impact your connection speed)
  • Computer, tablet or smartphone 
  • Web–camera (inbuilt in many computers, tablets, and smartphones)
  • Secure program to communicate through (e.g. Skype, Zoom, FaceTime)

 

Telehealth consultations are inherently different to face to face ones. It’s really important to acknowledge that your consultation has shifted to a two–dimensional format which poses unique challenges.

 

Voice or video – which should I choose?

Voice is more accessible, particularly for the elderly who may not have phones or computers with video capabilities. It requires lower bandwidth and is less susceptible to disruptions. Unfortunately, you can’t see the patient (duh!) which means you can’t use your ‘end–of–the–bed–o–gram’ to see if they are well or unwell.

Video provides visual information on whether your patient appears ‘well’ or ‘unwell’. It is ideal for those patients and families with hearing impairment as non–verbal communication is preserved, as is the option to lip–read. With the increased use of the internet during isolation, quarantine and social distancing,  connectivity can be slow at times. Some governments have been advocating for online streaming services to downgrade from HD format to help preserve bandwidth.

Irrespective of the method chosen it is important to ensure the lighting optimizes illumination of your face, and sound is adequate with minimal background noise.

 

How should I run the consultation?

Before you start make sure you have your information technology support team phone number in case issues arise that you can’t troubleshoot. Check the patient’s identity, sound, and vision (if using video) and consider having a set of earbuds/ headphones handy.

Ensure that your patient and their families are holding the consultation in a private, safe space. Clarify the amount of time available for the consultation. Non-verbal cues that the consult needs to come to an end are more challenging with telehealth.

Limit distractions – if the family has lots of children or pets, it is worth asking at the beginning of the consultation if they can play in another room (safely), or have a quiet activity to get on with. Communication with noisy siblings is even harder via telehealth than in real life

If you need an interpreter before to organize this in advance, either by phone or in-person

At the end of the consultation take a brief moment to ask your patient and their family for feedback about the telehealth consultation

  • Did your patient hear/ see you throughout the consultation?
  • Was your patient happy with the care they received?
  • Would your patient be happy to have another telehealth consultation in the future?

 

But how do I examine the patient?

A major barrier to telehealth is the inability to carry out a physical examination. You can, however, gather more from video telehealth than you realize.

General Inspection – probably the most important part of the paediatric examination :

  • Does the child look well or unwell?
  • Are they active and engaged, or quiet and withdrawn?
  • Do they look well-grown? (remember to review your patients’ growth charts!)
  • Do they look like their parent(s)? Do they have dysmorphic facial features?

Observations – In most teleconsultations you won’t have this information, some patients and their families may have:

  • A  thermometer to take their temperature (although generally not required for a routine clinic appointment unless the child is acutely unwell)
  • A smartwatch or app on their smartphone which can take their heart rate and or oxygen saturation for older children with comorbidities (e.g. chronic lung disease)
  • If a blood pressure is important for decision making (e.g. chronic kidney disease) it is vital that the cuff is fitting correctly; few families have at–home sphygmomanometers, so they may be able to visit the local practice nurse for an accurate measurement

RespiratoryA wise professor once said that most of the respiratory examination only requires your eyes

If the video quality allows – what is the respiratory rate? Are there signs of increased respiratory effort? Is the respiratory cycle normal, or is there a prolonged expiratory phase?

Development – assessment requires some assistance and props from parents, but this in itself gives you information about the parent–infant bond and social skills:

  • Gross motor – stacking blocks, throwing a ball, sitting/walking/cruising/running and jumping
  • Fine motor – picking up raisins, scribbling or drawing
  • Speech and Language – can the child point out pictures in a book? Read you something?
  • Social – difficult to assess via telehealth; it’s easier to obtain from history and parental/teacher questionnaires
  • Questionnaires filled out ahead of time can help gather more objective information on the developmental domains of concern (e.g. Ages and Stages Questionnaires) 

Neurological – this is very challenging to assess via telehealth, only gross assessments of tone and coordination will be possible (see above for gross and fine motor)
 

Financial Considerations

In Australia, many Medicare item numbers have recently become available to bulk-bill telehealth sessions. This includes quarantined/isolated doctors who are still able to provide telehealth from home. It is worth checking with the relevant agency in your area to see what options are available to support telehealth, and what the surrounding rules and regulations are.

 

Medicolegal Considerations

Here are some useful elements to document:

  • Your name, date, time & location of consultation
  • Patient/ carer consent for the telehealth consultation
  • Those present for the consultation
  • Video vs phone consultation
  • Limitations to quality of consultations (e.g. poor connectivity)

We recommend giving your friendly indemnity insurer a call if you have any specific medicolegal questions

 

Check out more resources here

https://www.rch.org.au/telehealth/

https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/suppl/2020/03/24/bmj.m1182.DC1/gret055914.fi.pdf

https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/368/bmj.m1182.full.pdf

https://www.racp.edu.au/docs/default-source/advocacy-library/telehealth-guidelines-and-practical-tips.pdf

https://www.racgp.org.au/getmedia/c51931f5-c6ea-4925-b3e8-a684bc64b1d6/Telehealth-video-consultation-guide.pdf.aspx

BRUE v ALTE – have the new guidelines made a difference?

Cite this article as:
Roland D, Davis T. BRUE v ALTE – have the new guidelines made a difference?, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2019. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.20773

This week sees the publication of a new paper in Pediatrics by the team at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh.

Ramgopal SR, Noorbakhsh KA, Callaway CQ, Wilson PM, Pitetti RD. Changes in the management of children with brief unresolved unexplained events (BRUEs). Pediatrics.

Why was this study needed?

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a guideline which renamed and redefined ALTEs (acute life-threatening event). The new term was BRUE (brief resolved unexplained event).

ALTE was initially coined in 1986 and the definition was:

an episode that is frightening to the observer and that is characterised by some combination of apnoea (central or occasionally obstructive), colour change…marked change in muscle tone (usually marked limpness), choking, or gagging. In some cases, the observer fears that the infant has died.

This was a broad definition and caused some difficulties for those of us assessing babies in hospitals. Although an ALTE could indicate a serious underlying problem – NAI, infection, seizure – commonly the infant was completely well. ALTEs by definition were subjective and this made the management of them tricky. Often these babies had overnight admissions to hospital for observation.

The new definition for BRUE is:

A BRUE has occurred if the observer reports a sudden, brief, and now resolved, unexplained episode of ≥1 of the following:

  • cyanosis or pallor
  • absent, decreased, or irregular breathing
  • marked change in tone (hyper- or hypotonia)
  • altered level of responsiveness

As well as the new definition, the guideline also stratifies patients and recommends management for those in the low-risk group.

Read our DFTB summary of the change in guidance here.

It has now been three years since the change from ALTE to BRUE. The aim of this study was to see whether the new guidance has affected rates of admission, investigations, or outcomes.

The objectives of the study were cleared stated and relevant to paediatric emergency medicine.

Who were the patients?

Patients were taken from the Pediatric Health Information System, which is a database with all information from presentations and admissions in hospitals across 26 states in the USA.

Patients were included if they were under 1 year old and had a diagnosis coded of either ALTE or BRUE between 2015 and 2017.

Exclusions were if patients had been transferred from another hospital, or had ambulatory surgery.

A control cohort was also used from all ED presentations of children under one year old during the inclusion period with no diagnosis of ALTE and BRUE (same exclusion criteria). The aim of the cohort group was to check whether there were any confounding trends in admissions/investigations during that time period.

This was an appropriate choice of patient group and the use of control cohort was beneficial. Sample size estimates were not stated explicitly but were alluded to.

The limitation here is the reliance on coding. However, additionally the authors were unable to determine if the diagnosis was correct, or if the patient could be classified as a low-risk BRUE as these assessments require a history and examination.

9,501 patients were used for the cohort analysis (5508 patients 0-60 days old, and 3993 who were 60 days to 1 year old). This group was split into a 2015 cohort (i.e. before the new guidelines) and a 2017 cohort (after the introduction of the new guidelines)

A second analysis was an interrupted time series analysis to look at trends in admissions over time. 13,977 patients were included in this group.

1.4 million patients were in the control cohort.

What analysis was carried out on these groups?

The cohort analysis looked at the rate of admissions as the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included revisits and investigations performed. A comparison was also conducted by using the control cohort.

The interrupted time series analysis looked at whether admission rates changed over time following the introduction of the guideline. Admission rates were analysed in one-week batches throughout the three year time period.

The subjects were all accounted for and appropriate outcomes were considered.

What were the findings?

Admissions: the proportion of admissions in the 61-365 day old group was 86.2% in the 2015 cohort and 68.2% in the 2017 cohort. The admissions were also significantly lower in the 0-60 days group – 89.9% in the 2015 group and 84.1% in the 2017 group.

Investigations: the 2017 group had significantly lower rates of EEG, MRI, CXR, FBC, U+Es, LFT, and urinalysis. Those in the 0-60 day old group (2017) had significantly lower rates of blood gas measurement, blood sugar testing, head CT, metabolic studies, and lumbar puncture.

Revisits: in the 0-60 day old group, revisits within 3 days were significantly lower in the 2017 group (3.7%) than in the 2015 group (5.2%). The rest of the revisit rates were similar.

Analysis of the control cohort here suggested that the decreased rates of these outcomes were independent of other trends over time.

Interrupted time series analysis: in the 0-60 day old group the introduction of the guideline did not affect trends in admissions rates. However, in the 61-365 day old group, the admission rates decreased each week after the guideline was published.

The authors were clear on what was measured and how it was measured. Follow up was for a 30 day period so should have picked up most complications. The measurements were reliable, valid, and the basic data was adequately described.

What did the authors conclude?

Between 2015 and 2017 there has been a significant reduction in the rates of admission and investigations for patients with ALTE/BRUE. This rate decreased steadily following the guideline publication.

The authors note that this reduction is seen in the 0-60 day old group, even though that age group would be stratified as higher risk in the new guidelines. The fact that BRUE is a diagnosis of exclusion, whereas ALTE was all-encompassing may mean that this diagnosis is being applied to a smaller, safer group over time, which might explain the findings. There were less patients diagnosed with ALTE/BRUE in 2017 compared to 2015.

The results are discussed in relation to existing knowledge and the discussion seems balanced and not biased. The conclusions are justified by the data.

Will this paper change my practice?

Changing practice is challenging, changing a definition is a little easier.

This study is a great example of how to review the impact of guideline change and determine whether the outcomes have improved for patients without unintended consequences. At face value the BRUE approach has had beneficial clinical impact. We see an overall decline in admission and investigations with no obvious harm (returns don’t increase).

There are a few caveats that are important to consider though. This study was from a chain of hospitals likely working with similar cultures and convergent working practices. A random selection of children’s hospitals may have interpreted the AAP guideline with a greater degree of variance (and therefore application). With this in mind the relevance of quite a profound change in coding should be highlighted. In a similar timescale 25% of patients with a prior diagnosis of ALTE are no longer coded as such and it appears that these patients are not replaced with a BRUE code (as there was a 25% reduction overall in either code). This means that either the guidance has been successful in making staff think hard about about the underlying reason for the infant’s presentation or that perhaps initial coding was not as precise as it could have been (“I’m not sure what happening here so I’ll just call it an ALTE“). Of note the return rate isn’t supplied for those not coded as BRUE or ALTE so we don’t know if the cohort of patients now coded as something else have actually come to increased harm. It is also interesting to note the significant fall in admissions for those less than 60 days old. This wasn’t the intention of the initial guidance and while this group’s re-admission rates didn’t increase this study wasn’t powered (or designed) to look at whether the re-admission changes would be significant or not. The fact that it appears safer is a statistical construct, not a clinical one. This means a type II error is possible (there is actually a problem but we aren’t seeing it).  

Ultimately, while these risks are real, and do need investigation in future study, it is likely that altering to using BRUE will effectively rationalize your investigation and management pathways without causing additional harm. The challenge for those outside the United States is whether national organizations are happy to formally endorse the BRUE concept as staff may feel uncomfortable applying new rules without official sanction. Locally certainly, we use the BRUE criteria in our risk assessment and this study only further endorses that approach.

Post-publication commentary from one of the authors

This is a really wonderful summary and analysis of the study. The findings do suggest that patients in the low risk cohort identified by the AAP BRUE guidelines are being discharged safely without an increase in return visits. It is important to note that this narrower definition of BRUE has not excluded all high acuity conditions, as patients with high acuity co-diagnoses were identified in both age groups after the practice guideline publication.
 
Overall, I think our findings support continued clinical application of the BRUE definition and guidelines. While not within the scope of our study, the results did make us wonder about the impact of guidelines published by a national medical organization. How much of the change we saw in a three-year period were due to influence by the AAP and how much was because the medical community was ready for a change in ALTE management? Finally, we hope that our findings are able to support further research into management of both low-risk and high-risk BRUE and into understanding what has changed in the management of infants who are now excluded from the BRUE diagnosis.
 
Katie Noorbakhsh (author)

Here’s a printable A4 summary of the paper & our thoughts:

Changes in the management of children with Brief resolved unexplained events (BRUEs)

An approach to obesity: Matt Sabin at DFTB18

Cite this article as:
Team DFTB. An approach to obesity: Matt Sabin at DFTB18, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2019. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.20580

Associate Professor Matt Sabin is the Chief Medical Officer of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. It was not in this role that we asked him to speak but rather in his clinical role as a paediatric endocrinologist running the largest tertiary hospital obesity service in Australia.

Unlucky dip: Rational diagnostic testing for infections

Cite this article as:
Alasdair Munro. Unlucky dip: Rational diagnostic testing for infections, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2019. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.20311

We see lots of children with suspected infections. Modern microbiology techniques have opened up a huge array of tests: some new and expensive, but we are often still reliant on good old fashion microscopy and culture.

With so many tests so readily available, we need to think hard about diagnostic stewardship. This means testing the right patients for the right reasons. We must be wary of over-diagnosis, preventing confusion, anxiety or unnecessary treatment, and making choices that represent good value. Many tests can be expensive and are often not necessary to make management decisions.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common diagnostic tests for infections, and when we should (or shouldn’t!) be deploying them.

 

Urine dips and MC&S

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common serious bacterial infection in high-income countries. There are many departments where it is routine to set up every febrile child to get a “clean catch” urine as soon as they arrive. This is unwise, because it is VERY EASY to contaminate a urine sample from a clean catch. We have all seen children or parents putting their hands/feet/face in the bowl, and let’s be honest – if the child is sitting on the container, it’s basically directly under the body’s primary waste pipe.

Accepting a decent risk of false positives, we must aim to test only those who need the test. So when should we do it?

Fever without a source

This is the primary indication for doing a urine dip, and it is a sensible one. However, still not every child with fever and no source needs a urine dip. Older children can report urinary symptoms, and the absence of these makes a UTI much less likely. In addition, by school age, UTIs in males with normal renal tracts become very rare, so urine testing also becomes less useful.

As a framework, urine dips should be performed in the following groups with fever and no source (assuming they have no risk factors for UTIs and have no red flags):

Outside of these groups, use your clinical discretion to decide if the pre-test probability justifies the risk of a false positive – take into consideration the child’s age, gender, duration of symptoms, how unwell they appear, and obviously if they have known risk factors such as renal abnormalities or previous UTIs.

Symptoms of UTI

This seems obvious – but it’s worth stating that once urinary symptoms are present (increased frequency, dysuria) you should dip the urine to check for infection, and it may be worth sending samples for MC&S even if they are dip negative in this scenario (you can withhold treatment pending results).

It is worth taking more care for children with non-urinary symptoms, such as abdominal pain or vomiting (which is probably not predictive of UTI). Once at school age (particularly in boys) these symptoms are unlikely to be a symptom of a UTI so a higher threshold for testing should be adopted.

Some people say that all children with rigors require urine testing. Rigors are not evidenced to have any influence on the risk of UTI (or any significant risk of bacterial infection). If there is another source of the fever, urine dip is certainly not indicated on the basis of a rigor alone.

For more information on relative risks for UTIs in younger children, the supplementary materials to the UTI risk calculator study make an interesting read.

What about hot babies with bronchiolitis?

This becomes a slightly more controversial topic, and decisions require risk stratification based on the age of the child. For example, a febrile neonate with bronchiolitis might be lucky to escape the full shebang of a septic screen anyway – and a quick in/out catheter is unlikely to yield a false positive.

The literature on this topic is a bit confusing because of varying definitions of UTI and bronchiolitis (some studies including any child with RSV detected in their nose). The most recent meta-analysis with more stringent criteria for diagnosing UTI found a rate of concomitant UTI with bronchiolitis of 0.8% – low enough that testing is not advised.

Bottom line: if an infant has a fever and a clinical diagnosis of bronchiolitis, then urine dip is not necessary in most instances – however this should be given strong consideration in infants <60d and should be performed in neonates.

 

Blood culture

For a full myth busting exercise in blood cultures, please read the recent DFTB post on this topic. Some things to bear in mind if you’re thinking of taking a blood culture:

  • You are testing for bacteraemia. If you do not suspect bacteraemia, do not send a blood culture.
  • Blood cultures are extremely low yield in uncomplicated skin/soft tissue infection and pneumonia and should be avoided.
  • You do not need to wait for a fever to take a blood culture – it has no influence on the likelihood of obtaining a positive result. If you suspect bacteraemia, take the culture now.
  • If you are going to take a blood culture, aim to inoculate at least 1ml of blood per year of the child’s age. Less than this and you increase the risk of contamination and decrease the sensitivity.

 

Wound swab

When it comes to swabbing for microscopy, culture and sensitivity (MC&S), there is a golden rule*:

Do not swab any non-sterile site that you have not already clinically diagnosed as being infected.

A skin swab, throat swab, eye swab etc. will grow bacteria 100% of the time, because these places are non-sterile. They will often grow pathogens, because many pathogens are quite happy just being colonisers a lot of the time, and actually some of them are more often found as bystanders than as trouble-makers (Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a prime example – it is very rarely pathogenic in non-sterile sites). A positive swab does not diagnose infection.

YOU have to diagnose infection; a swab will just tell you what bacteria is causing it.

I would like to give a special shout out to gastrostomies at this point – just because they are “mucky” is not a good reason to swab. If you do swab it, you will find good old Pseudomonas (it loves playing in wet stuff). Skin and soft tissue infections are red, hot and inflamed +/- a bit of pus. Yellowish clearish greenish stuff is normally just serous fluid, so don’t worry about it and don’t swab it!

The same goes for babies sticky eyes. If you swab it, it will grow bacteria, but this tells you nothing about whether they are infected. Look for inflammation, if you find it then diagnose infection, treat empirically and send a swab if you are concerned about resistant bacteria.

*there are some exceptions to the golden rule, including burns and chronic wounds in immunosuppressed patients.

 

Throat swabs

Before starting – let’s remember that you cannot diagnose a bacterial throat infection with a swab alone. If you are considering swabbing a throat for MC&S, you must have already clinically diagnosed infection.

Guidelines vary quite widely in their recommendations to swab or not swab when diagnosing tonsillitis. It is worth considering that a throat swab has a reasonable sensitivity for group A Strep, if performed correctly. Sadly – we are all dreadful at performing throat swabs in children (who are usually very good at not wanting a throat swab), and often get a good dose of tongue and palate. Not good.

A further thing to consider is that approximately half of all throat swabs positive for group A Strep just indicate carriage – you’ve found the bug, but it’s just a bystander.

This means that if you swab and haven’t found the bacteria, it might be there but you’ve missed it, and if you have found it, there’s a 50% chance it’s not causing the illness anyway…

If it’s extremely important you detect the presence of group A Strep (for example in populations high risk for rheumatic fever) then I would definitely do a swab. If it’s not (and it usually is not), then make your decision to treat or not on clinical grounds alone.

Also, remember that in children <4yrs group A Strep tonsillitis is rare and almost never causes complications, so if you’re thinking of doing a throat swab for a child in this age group you need to have a very good reason.

 

Respiratory virus testing

Respiratory tract infections are extremely common in children. There is a fair amount of controversy and disagreement about the role for respiratory virus testing. It can have several roles:

  1. Local epidemiology. Some big/university hospitals like to keep track of what’s circulating, and will often have guidelines on who and when they want these tests performed.
  2. Cohorting. In bronchiolitis season, some hospitals might fill one bay with RSV and another with Rhinovirus. This is an evidence free zone.
  3. Fever without a source. Influenza in particular can cause horrible febrile illnesses in children without the classic respiratory prodrome. The idea is to detect the flu to prevent unnecessary antibiotics.

A group of children you should not test for respiratory viruses is anyone with cough and coryza. They do not need a test – they can be safely diagnosed clinically, and the presence or absence of a virus on testing does not change anything.

What about in lower respiratory tract infections? We can imagine that the discovery of a virus would prevent unnecessary antibiotics. However, respiratory viruses are common (even among non-hospitalised populations) and co-infection with bacteria is also common in viral infections. The presence of a virus does not preclude a bacterial infection. As such, their use in this context is contentious, and they do not appear to reduce antibiotic use.

For a thorough look at the principles and evidence of respiratory virus testing in children, I would recommend this excellent review paper.

 

Conclusions

  • Not every child with fever and no source needs a urine dip. Do it in infants, young girls and children with fever persisting >48hrs. Otherwise, use clinical discretion.
  • You probably don’t need to urine dip febrile children with clinical bronchiolitis.
  • Only do blood cultures if you suspect bacteraemia, and take lots of blood if you do.
  • Only send a swab for MC&S from a non-sterile site if you’ve already diagnosed infection.
  • Throat swabs are usually not useful. Only do them for high risk groups.
  • Respiratory virus testing is not useful in most circumstances. Only do it if you have a definite plan for how it will change your management.
  • When in doubt – if you can’t explain how the test will change your management, don’t do the test.

Vicarious Trauma : It’s ok to not be ok

Cite this article as:
Jasmine Antoine. Vicarious Trauma : It’s ok to not be ok, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2019. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.19256

One afternoon my team broke the news to three different families that their children had a non survivable condition. That same week I was involved with a patient transitioning to a palliative pathway focused on comfort. I returned home to utter the words, “She is so sweet, I hope she dies soon.

For many of us, days like these, occur commonly.

Being a doctor is a privilege, an honour, a calling. Our jobs are stressful, diagnostically challenging, involve managing team members, and effectively communicating and engaging with different families whom have different needs. We are reliant on our knowledge and skills. What sets our job apart from other high stress environments is that any given day can involve death and dying. We see distressing conditions. Our day includes the uncommon, the unlucky and the unfortunate events of life. To the public these events occur few and far between, but for us it may be a daily occurrence -a relentless barrage of traumatic events, poor outcomes and sad stories.

The intensive care environment is difficult to navigate. The rates of burnout, mental health issues and self medication are high amongst our peers. 70% of junior doctors feel burnt out following a neonatal rotation. Strikingly, their (our) rates of suicide are twice that of the general population. Most of us have heard the words compassion fatigue. Some of us may even be familiar with vicarious trauma – the negative experience of working directly with traumatised populations. Compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma are on a spectrum. We initially may feel overwhelmed by our interaction but this can develop into symptoms of post traumatic stress.

At DFTB18, I spoke about some of the things we can do to reduce this happening to us, and the events above reinforced that message;

  • Seek the support of those around you.
  • Reflect with your supervisor.
  • Get together with your team to debrief.
  • Seek professional psychological support.
  • Foster a culture in your workplace that is supportive and open, whilst also taking time for yourself.
  • Make a regular appointment to see you GP.

And remember, it’s ok not to be ok

For more on this topic of the difficulties of dealing with death and burn out hit up DFTB at:

Burning out by Mark Garcia

A short story about death by Andy Tagg

Selected References

Boss RD, Geller G, Donohue PK. Conflicts in Learning to Care for Critically Ill Newborns: “It makes me question my own morals”, Bioethical Inquiry. 2015;12:437-448

Hauser N, Natalucci G, Ulrich H, Sabine K, Fauchere JC. Work related burden on physicians and nurses working in neonatal intensive care units: a survey, Journal of Neonatology and Clinical Pediatrics. 2015;2:2:0013.

Nimmo A, Huggard, P. A systematic review of the measurement of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress in physicians. Australian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. 2013;1:37-44.

Stress, burnout and vicarious trauma: looking after yourself. RACGP Webinar Series.

Feeding problems in infancy: David Tickell at DFTB18

Cite this article as:
Team DFTB. Feeding problems in infancy: David Tickell at DFTB18, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2018. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.17426

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.

Vaccine hesitancy: Margie Danchin at DFTB18

Cite this article as:
Team DFTB. Vaccine hesitancy: Margie Danchin at DFTB18, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2018. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.17112

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.

How to draw a Genogram

Cite this article as:
Daniel Bakhsh. How to draw a Genogram, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2018. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.17132

As a Student Doctor at the University of Queensland, I was offered the opportunity to shadow the Adolescent Team at The Child and Youth Mental Health Service (or CYMHS) at the Queensland Children’s Hospital. This was an amazing opportunity to observe some really important work in two of my special interest areas: Paediatrics and Psychiatry. The attachment really drove home that patients don’t exist in isolation, and how this is particularly true for children. The surrounding family system strongly dictates how well they will fare once they leave the hospital.

As part of this attachment I was asked to prepare and present Genograms for every patient at the weekly Multidisciplinary Team meeting. As I began to interview family members in order to gather the required 3 generations of family history, it became clear to me that a small diagram could represent and quickly convey what would otherwise have taken several pages of text. Genograms provide a wealth of insight at a glance, can help align patients with their most appropriate care, and are relatively easy to draw once you know how. They are a mainstay of Paediatrics for a reason.

When I first came across Genograms as a student, attempting to create one was very confusing and a little overwhelming. There are also surprisingly few reference materials available to aid you along the way. So in order to make this task a little easier for the next student, I put together this little video. I hope you find it useful.

– Daniel Bakhsh, Student Doctor, Doctor of Medicine Program, University of Queensland

DFTB go to New York

Cite this article as:
Andrew Tagg. DFTB go to New York, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2018. Available at:
https://doi.org/10.31440/DFTB.17016

I first heard of the FemInEM crew in Dublin. Dara Kass, Jenny Beck-Esmay and Stacey Poznanski took to the stage to talk about the birth of FemInEM, first as a blog then as a resource to effect change in the conversation around gender and equity in emergency medicine. Since then they have grown to be a leading voice in this area.

Their first sell out conference, FIX17, in New York brought together a unique set of voices and when the call came out for pitches to speak at FIX18 I thought it would be the perfect place for me to tell a story. This blog post isn’t about my tale – you can read A short story about deathand life here – but about something else.

I consider myself well-travelled, having spent almost 5 years of my life working as a doctor on board cruise ships, but hearing the talks at FIX18 made me realise I a still living in my own little bubble. Everything I hear via Twitter or other forms of social media comes pre-filtered by the source. So if I only follow white hetero-males they inform my worldview. The conference reminded me that there are other voices and other realities.

 

Sex and gender

In a conference where I was clearly in the minority, I was constantly reminded of things I have just taken for granted. Nick Gorton, a transman,  really opened my eyes when he told the audience that life had been like playing a video game on hard mode then, when he became a man, everything just switched over to easy. Look out for his great talk when it comes out…

 

Race

You only have to read the newspaper headlines on any given day to see how race plays a role in the public perception of a person. To hear Arabia Mollette say that she will never be seen as a woman first when she walks into a room because she is a person of colour made me feel uncomfortable. I’d like to think that I don’t see the world that way, but we all have our implicit biases. Don’t think you are biased? Then try out one of the Harvard Implicit Bias tests over at Project Implicit.

 

Privilege

A lot of medics come from a place of privilege, parents with degree level education and jobs that pay well. Many have parents that are, or were, doctors.  Regina Royan spoke of a different type of upbringing, of families struggling to make ends meet, and of the hidden challenges this brings from the start of medical training – not just in the shockingly high costs to apply to medical school in the US but also on things like electives and placements away from your home base.

 

I have lived, comfortably, within my own little bubble of existence. FemInEM has challenged me to expand my worldview, to listen to dissenting voices, and ask more questions.

 

For more accounts of FIX18 then read these accounts…

Penny Wilson – Getting my feminist FIX in New York

Shannon MacNamara – Telling stories to FIX things

Annie Slater – We support, We Amplify, We Promote