Most experienced pediatric intensivists, myself included, have encountered situations in which we, the doctors, believe continuing to support a child is unethical because it is not saving the life but prolonging the dying; whereas the child’s parents believe the opposite -- that it is unethical to withdraw life support because all life is sacred, no matter the circumstances. Sometimes these situations arise because poor communication causes families to distrust the ...

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Humans evolved with the constant force of the earth’s gravity. This is relevant to several of our organs, but the brain’s anatomy makes it especially important. The brain floats in spinal fluid encased inside the closed box of the skull. Gravity would be expected to affect the details of that. Indeed, studies of people who spent prolonged periods of time in bed in a head down position indicate this abnormal ...

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In theory, of course, it’s a great idea for people to give their opinions and rate their experiences with any goods or services they buy. The notion goes back long before the Internet with publications like Consumer Reports, which is now itself online. Sites such as Angie’s List are very popular and can give you testimonials about providers of everything from home renovations to car repair to daycare. So it’s not surprising several ...

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It’s fall in the PICU, and we just saw our first severe case of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) of the season. RSV is by far the most common cause of bronchiolitis in infants. To scientists, RSV is a fascinating virus with several unique properties. One of these is its behavior in the population. When it’s present, RSV is everywhere. Then it suddenly vanishes. There are exceptions to everything in medicine ...

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I swiped this editorial cartoon by Steve Sack from the redoubtable Dr. David Gorski’s blog, who goes by the nom-de-web of Orac. Recent epidemiology shows reducing the fraction of vaccinated children in the population rather promptly leads to a resurgence of the diseases vaccines protect against. This is the concept of community or herd immunity. Epidemiologists debate ...

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As the kids say, it’s complicated. Practicing physicians are seeing an ever increasing list of protocols and pathways coming their way. These arrive in several forms -- order sets for medications, guidelines in how to proceed for various conditions, when to do this, when to do that, and when not to do either one. They generally are the product of various committees trying to synthesize what these days we call ...

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I occasionally dip my toe into the constant Internet flame wars over the generous term "vaccine skepticism," and the less generous "vaccine denial." If you’re looking to see one of these quickly, Twitter always has some ongoing vaccine fireworks. The character limit of Twitter tends to compress the exchanges into hurled invectives, only occasionally punctuated by futile pleas for calm. Many quickly devolve into exchanges between posters of what they believe to ...

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For many centuries medical practice was a black art. What physicians did was based upon theories of how the body worked that turned out to be fanciful at best, dangerous at worst. The late nineteenth century brought breakthroughs in the biological sciences, such as the identification of bacteria and new understandings of physiology, which increasingly placed medical practice on a scientific basis. That process has continued over the past 150 years, ...

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Those of us who work in pediatric intensive care have frequent encounters with the problem of suicide and attempted suicide. It has seemed to me for some years that the numbers are increasing, and this has been shown to be the case. After years of declining, the suicide rate in our country has been increasing, now at about 125 percent of the rate of several decades ago. This increase ...

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A fairly recent article in the Journal of Pediatrics is both intriguing and sobering. It is intriguing because it lays bare something we don’t talk much about or teach our students. It is sobering because it describes the potential harm that can come from it — harm I have personally witnessed. The issue is overdiagnosis, and it’s related to our relentless quest to explain everything. "Overdiagnosis" is the term the authors ...

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