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Trouble with medical devices plagues young

Associated Press / July 26, 2010

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CHICAGO — More than 70,000 children and teens go to the emergency room each year for injuries and complications from medical devices, and contact lenses are the leading culprit, the first detailed national estimate suggests.

About one-fourth of the problems were things like infections and eye abrasions in contact lens wearers. These are sometimes preventable and can result from wearing contact lenses too long without cleaning them.

Other common problems found by researchers at the US Food and Drug Administration include puncture wounds from hypodermic needles breaking off in the skin while injecting medicine or illegal drugs; infections in young children with ear tubes; and skin tears from pelvic devices used during gynecological exams in teen girls.

Malfunction and misuse are among possible reasons; the researchers are working to determine how and why the injuries occurred and also are examining the prevalence in adults.

The most serious problems involved implanted devices such as brain shunts for children with hydrocephalus (water on the brain); chest catheters for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy at home; and insulin pumps for diabetics. Infections and overdoses are among problems associated with these devices. Only 6 percent of patients overall had to be hospitalized.

Dr. Steven Krug, head of emergency medicine at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, said the study highlights a trade-off linked with medical advances that have enabled chronically ill children to be treated at home and live more normal lives.

“Health care providers need to be aware of these kids and their devices and how to recognize or diagnose’’ related problems, Krug said.

The study appears in Pediatrics, published online today.

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