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Archive for the ‘medical research’ Category

I’m sitting in my well-let living room on a Sunday morning on a hard folding chair, hoping both the light and non-comfy seat will keep me on task: reading the seminal article “Pain and its Effects in the Human Neonate and Fetus” by Dr. K.J.S Anand and Dr. P.R. Hickey published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1987. Am I a scientist? NO. Am I a doctor or medical professional? NO. I am a survivor of infant surgery, carried out without adequate pain control and likely, without anesthesia. And since I consider myself a health activist of sorts, I figure I need to be as versed as I can in the subject about which I blog.

The study I’m reading was groundbreaking. It provided a point of view in the field of medicine that was lacking–that infants feel pain and that the administration of anesthesia and analgesics is necessary for babies who require surgery or other invasive medical procedures. I’m paraphrasing, of course. And I’m only half way through the article. Why?  Because in each paragraph, I’ve had to look up at least two or three words in my huge Random House Dictionary or the Bantam Medical Dictionary and then connect those meanings to the point of the paragraph in general, which sometimes requires my taking notes or drawing diagrams in the margins. Yikes! Who would bother!  That’s why people like Dr. David B. Chamberlain interpreted this article for us. He  wrote the essay “Babies Don’t Feel Pain,” in which he introduced the findings of Drs. Anand and Hickey and gave us a history of medicine’s thoughts and conclusions about infant pain. Thank you, Dr. Chamberlain.

But my having read Dr. Chamberlain’s article is not enough. I’m interested in not only my reactions to reading a challenging scientific article, but also my emotional response to what I’m reading. You can imagine how I felt when I read this sentence: “Despite recommendations to the contrary in textbooks on pediatric anesthesiology, the clinical practice of inducing minimal or no anesthesia in newborns, particularly if they are premature, is widespread” (2). OMG!  Couldn’t any parent tell you that his or her newborn feels pain?  If it’s not proven though–if no tests were done that provides replicable data–well, then medicine too often ignores what we all intuitively know. Frightening?  Yes. That’s why we owe so much gratitude to Drs. Anand and Hickey who connected the data dots. They provided the numbers and made the argument that the medical profession needed in order to change clinical practice.

Wish me luck in finishing the article!

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I don’t know where to begin. I just found out that I may not have needed the surgery I underwent at three weeks old–a surgery that not only stressed our family to the max, but also caused me much suffering at the time of the operation, in recovery, and over the course of my life. I’m trying to write rationally and logically so that the ideas come across clearly, but basically I just want to SCREAM!!

A medical article* posted to the Internet, “The Cause of Infantile Hypertrophic Pyloric Stenosis: One Man’s journey” by Dr. Ian M. Rogers, rocked my world. Basically I found out that an antacid administered early in my life may have resolved the hyperacidic condition in my stomach that caused the closing of the passageway between my stomach and small intestine. According to the article, “selected cases of pyloric stenosis in adults may be successfully managed by antacid therapy” (Par. 3). And so it may be with an infant, according to Dr. Rogers, a visiting Professor of Surgery at the AIMST University Faculty of Medicine in  Malaysia. If a baby’s stomach is hyperacidic for whatever reason, and by that he means increased beyond the normal post-partum temporary rise in acid levels, treatment with an antacid may resolve the condition so that surgery can be avoided.

The other issue Dr. Roger’s discusses is the fact that erythromycin, a drug that was at one time administered to infants as a preventative against whooping cough, can cause pyloric stenosis as well. Recently, my dentist informed me that the reason why I have white spots on my front teeth and that all my teeth are slightly discolored is that I was likely given erythromycin as a baby. So my abnormally hyperacidic infant tummy may have been due to a drug given to me my doctor! In other words, my illness could have been caused by the medical profession. Yikes!

What’s most galling is that the research pointing to abnormal hyperacidity as the cause of pyloric stenosis surfaced as early as 1921. Subsequent studies pointed to the same. So why has it taken almost a century for a doctor to state emphatically that surgery for pyloric stenosis can be avoided in many cases?  Why is it that the cause of pyloric stenosis has been a mystery all these decades?  Dr. Rogers’ hypothesis has yet to be accepted by the medical community. What is the hold-up?   Stay tuned.

*To read a translation of the medical article into a layperson’s language, please see Fred Vanderbom’s blog post “Pyloric Stenosis can often be Avoided” June, 1, 2012. (Once you arrive at  his blog site, simply go to select date, June, 2012)

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