"In a case that could have wide-reaching implications for medical practice in Minnesota, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling on April 17 in the case of Warren v. Dinter holding that the existence of a physician-patient relationship is not a prerequisite for a medical malpractice action. Rather, a person may sue a physician for malpractice – even if that person was not a patient of the physician – if the harm ...

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All good doctors learn to filter what parents say to them during history taking, to examine each parental statement for reliability, likelihood, and sheer outlandishness. Parents of sick children are a cross-section of humanity and, like all of us, vary in their observational skills, their ability to express themselves, and their tendency to exaggerate or minimize what they see. Parents, not being physicians, may not notice and comment on things ...

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This article concerns what I call the poor conversationalist. There are several common versions of this, and all of them have corresponding parallels in nonmedical settings. Often the most basic difficulty is one of manner. A good conversationalist is a person who, no matter what he is thinking, outwardly projects an air of interest in what the other person is saying. The doctor who acts distracted, hurried, or even uninterested ...

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A physician, like anyone, can be a poor explainer of things for several reasons, but foremost among these is the tendency to use medical jargon. This is not a problem unique to doctors. When I take my car in for repairs, I often must ask the mechanic to explain what is wrong in a way I can understand. I have a rudimentary understanding of what the various parts of the ...

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Like many pediatric intensivists, I care from time to time for victims of child abuse in the form of what is often called “shaken baby syndrome.” This syndrome is a characteristic constellation of finds that happen when a strong person grasps a child around the chest and aggressively shakes the infant. It was first described by Caffey, a pediatric radiologist, fifty years ago. The baby may have ...

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Children are relatively healthy overall. Although 25% of the American population is under the age of 19, only 2% of annual deaths occur in this age group. There was a time when the contributions of diseases to pediatric death rates were much higher. Declines in deaths from infectious disease or cancer, the result of early diagnosis, vaccinations, antibiotics, and medical and surgical treatment, have given way to increases in deaths from ...

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common diagnosis in children today, and is increasingly a diagnosis assigned to adults, too. ADHD is a real thing, despite some having some skeptics and a few outright denialists; differences in brain scans between persons who have it and who don’t show there is a definite physiological basis for the disorder. But in practice, we don’t do brain scans. We base the diagnosis on ...

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The over-the-counter sale of probiotics is a huge industry. They are heavily promoted on social media as a cure-all for a wide variety of ills. Probiotics are live cultures of what are often called “good bacteria,” and there are solid physiological reasons for recommending them. But, and this is a huge but, actual clinical data demonstrating their usefulness behind some well-defined disorders is pretty scant. Their potential usefulness in many ...

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I spent my early and mid-career years working in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at a large academic center. We did almost everything except for a few things esoteric at the time — small bowel transplants, a few kinds of experimental surgery. I’m now in my late career (but have no plans to quit anytime soon!) and work in a smaller PICU. I am frequently confronted with the issue ...

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Imagine this scenario. Your two-year-old son has had a runny nose for a day or two and an occasional cough, but seemed no worse to you that everyone else in his preschool class. Two hours after you put him to bed you hear him coughing, only this cough is like none you have ever heard from him before. It sounds like a barking seal at the circus -- a brassy, ...

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The stethoscope. Nothings says “I’m a doctor” more than the stethoscope in a pocket or draped around the neck. Forty-five years ago when I got my first one, a gift from my physician-father, the former was more common. Then we were more likely to wear coats — white coats or suit coats — and pockets were available. I had suit coats in which the lining was worn out from the ...

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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. ...

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I first posted about this subject a couple of years ago but it’s so fascinating to me I’m writing about it again. I happened to run across this study containing some amazing information. It’s from a publication called The Journal of Voice. The link is to the abstract — the complete article is behind a paywall but I can get it for anybody who’s interested in reading the whole study in ...

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Computed tomography, or CT scanning, is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools to emerge during my medical career. Just look at the detail in the brain images above, taken at 90-degree angles through the brain. And I was there at the beginning. I remember well when I was a medical student taking neurology, and the first CT scanner arrived at the Mayo Clinic. By today’s standards, it was incredibly ...

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Burnout has been a descriptive term for years, but lately, psychologists and others have assigned it specific characteristics with a view toward being able actually to study and measure it. One common definition of burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness. The PICU environment is often one of high stress, so it’s a place where this ...

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We want competent physicians, but we also want compassionate ones. How do we get them? Is it nature or is it nurture? Is it more important to search out more compassionate students, or should we instill compassion somehow in the ones we start along the training pipeline? I think the answer lies in nurturing what nature has already put there. My background is in pediatric critical care, which I have practiced ...

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Anyone who has worked in medicine for a long time well understands the power of the statement coming from an experienced person: “This kid looks sick.” That person could be a physician or nurse. Years of experience does tend to give one a sort of sixth sense for when to worry something serious is going on that just hasn’t shown itself fully yet. Seasoned parents can often provide the same ...

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The recent prominence of the #MeToo movement has shined a light at many places in our society where insidious or even obvious sexism against women has long gone unremarked. Even when noticed it’s just shrugged off as the way things are. In honor of this, #MeToo was named Person of the Year for 2017 by Time Magazine. Medicine is no exception to this pervasive problem. A very interesting recent essay in the New ...

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Most physicians are increasingly forced to grapple with the problem of shortages in generic drugs. These are drugs for which the patent has expired and any company can make them. Certainly for those of us in the PICU it is a chronic problem because the majority of drugs we use are injectable medications that have been generic for many years. Hardly a week goes by I don’t receive a notification ...

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Vaccines have been hailed by virtually all medical experts, as well as medical historians, as the among the greatest triumphs of public health to occur in the past two centuries. Yet since Jenner first proposed vaccination for smallpox using the vaccinia, or cowpox, virus there have been both skeptics of its effectiveness and people who thought it was dangerous. That is, they had the risk/benefit ratio of vaccination exactly backwards, ...

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