I am a pediatric gastroenterologist at GI Care for Kids (previously called CCDHC) in Atlanta, Georgia. The goal of my blog is to share some of my reading in my field more broadly. In addition, I wanted to provide my voice to a wide range of topics that often have inaccurate or incomplete information.
Before starting this blog in 2011, I would tear out articles from journals and/or keep notes in a palm pilot. This blog helps provide an updated source of information that is easy to access and search, along with links to useful multimedia sources.
I was born and raised in Chattanooga. After graduating from the University of Virginia, I attended Baylor College of Medicine. I completed residency and fellowship training at the University of Cincinnati at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center. I received funding from the National Institutes of Health for molecular biology research of the gastrointestinal tract. I have authored numerous publications/presentations including original research, case reports, review articles, and textbook chapters on various pediatric gastrointestinal problems.
Currently, I am the vice chair of the section of nutrition for the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition, I am an adjunct Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. Other society memberships have included the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Food Allergy Network, the American Gastroenterology Association, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
As part of a national pediatric GI organization called NASPGHAN (and its affiliated website GIKids) I have helped develop educational materials on a wide-range of gastrointestinal and liver diseases which are used across the country. Also, I have been an invited speaker for national campaigns to improve the evaluation and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease, celiac disease, eosinophilic esophagitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Some information on these topics has been posted at my work website, www.gicareforkids.com, which has links to multiple other useful resources.
I am fortunate to work at GI Care For Kids. Our group has 15 physicians with a wide range of subspecialization, including liver diseases, feeding disorders, eosinophilic diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, DiGeorge/22q, celiac disease, and motility disorders. Many of our physicians are recognized nationally for their achievements. For many families, more practical matters include the following:
– 14 office/satellite locations
– physicians who speak Spanish
– cutting edge research
– on-site nutritionists
– on-site psychology support for abdominal pain and feeding disorders
– participation in ImproveCareNow
– office endoscopy suite (lower costs and easier scheduling)
– office infusion center (lower costs and easier for families)
– easy access to nursing advice (each physician has at least one nurse)
I am married and have two sons. I like to read, walk/hike, exercise, swim, and play tennis with my free time as well as go to baseball games.
I do not have any financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies or other financial relationships to disclose. I have participated in industry-sponsored research studies.
Two recent articles delve into the topic of Pediatric to Adult Care Transition.
M Katz et al. J Pediatr (Epub head of publication) 2021. African American Pediatric Liver Transplant Recipients Have an Increased Risk of Death After Transferring to Adult Healthcare (Thanks to a friend who shared this reference & congratulations to my Emory colleagues and senior author Nitika Gupta on this publication)
This retrospective study examined 101 patients between 1990 and 2015. 64 had long-term followup data available.
African Americans had higher rates of death after transfer than patients of other races (44% mor- tality vs 16%, representing 67% of all cases of death; P = .032)
18 of the 64 (28%) died. Of those 18 deaths, 4 (22%) occurred within the first 2 years after transfer, and 10 (55%) within 5 years of transfer.
There was a high rate of medication nonadherence in patients who died. ” Death in our cohort was typically caused by chronic rejection and graft failure, with a high frequency of severe infections or bleeding events ultimately causing a patient to die.”
The average age of transplant in deceased patients was 15. Transplantation in teenage years could be a risk factor as well.
The authors note that “the years directly after transfer of care from pediatrics to adult medicine are high risk for death and poor patient outcomes. Racial disparities seen in pediatric medicine also hold true after transfer to adulthood.”
This retrospective study with 104 subjects defined suboptimal transition as “either a return to pediatric care or requiring care escalation within 1 year of transfer.
37 (36%) were determined to have a suboptimal transition.
Risk factors: mental health diagnosis (OR 4.15), medication non-adherence (OR 5.15), public insurance (OR 6.60), and higher Physician Global Assessment score at time of transition (OR 6.64).
Comments: This is a small study and included only 26 patients receiving public insurance, which the authors considered as a proxy measure of socioeconomic status.
My take: These studies show the difficulties and potential deadly outcomes that face these young adults during transition from pediatrics to adult care. In many cases, medication non-adherence is a key factor and can be affected by access to care, insurance coverage, and mental health. Most young adults with serious medical problems probably would benefit from keeping their parents actively involved in their care.
In this PIANO study (2007-2019), pregnant women with IBD were enrolled in a prospective, observational, multicenter study across the United States. PIANO is an acronym for Pregnancy in Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Neonatal Outcomes.
In this study, which analyzed Medicaid Analytic eXtract data from 4 states (California, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas) between 2006 and 2011, the authors identified 14,735 patients with IBD (4672 black [32%]). Key finding: “In patients with Medicaid insurance, where access to IBD-specific therapy should be similar for all individuals, there was no significant disparity by race in the utilization of IBD-specific therapies.”
Pediatricians who choose to use social media should have separate personal and professional social media pages, with patients and their parents directed to the professional page.
A pediatrician’s personal page should have adequate privacy settings to prevent unauthorized access. Professional pages should be set to prevent tagging.
It is wise to pause before posting, given that information posted online can exist in perpetuity and can be captured and redisseminated by viewers before it can be deleted.
Pediatricians should follow state and federal privacy and confidentiality laws as well as the social media policies of their health care organization and any professional society to which they belong.
Independent practitioners should develop social media policies for their practices to protect patients and clarify expectations. These policies should be in writing and widely distributed to all staff and clinicians. If restrictions on communicating with patients are in place in such policies, this should be shared with patients. Given advances in technology, these policies should be reviewed regularly and updated as needed.
Conflicts of interest, including in tweets, blog postings, and media appearances by pediatricians, should be disclosed.
Pediatricians should use a HIPAA-compliant secure site with encryption when communicating about health care or rendering advice directly to patients or families. Individually identifiable protected health information should not be shared through social media without documented authorization from the patient or guardian.
Before posting on social media, protected health information should be deidentified (and clearly noted to be so) and presented respectfully.
Professional boundaries should be maintained in the use of social media. Accepting (and certainly initiating) friend requests from current patients is discouraged. It is up to the pediatrician’s discretion whether to accept such requests from former patients. It may be appropriate to accept a friend request from a patient’s parent if the physician’s relationship to that person extends beyond the clinical environment.
Searching for patient information through the Internet or social media should have a specific purpose with clear clinical relevance. Any information obtained through this route should be shared directly with the patient to maximize transparency and before recording any such information in the patient’s chart.
Pediatricians should monitor their online profile to protect against inaccurate postings. Negative online reviews warrant a thoughtful response that honors confidentiality requirements, including the fact that the reviewer is or was the physician’s patient.
Pediatricians should recognize that providing specific medical advice to an individual through social media may create a physician-patient relationship that may have documentation, follow-up, state licensing, and liability implications.
Two recent JPGN articles from the same researchers highlight changes in presentation and deficits of knowledge with celiac disease (CD). Interestingly, the authors chose to spell celiac disease differently in the two articles.
This retrospective study included data from 653 children and adolescents (median age 7 years 2 months; 63.9% girls) from Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Slovenia were available for the analysis. Key findings:
One fifth (N = 134) of all children were asymptomatic.
In symptomatic children, the most common leading symptom was abdominal pain (33.3%), followed by growth retardation (13.7%) and diarrhoea (13.3%). Many children (47.6%; N = 247) were polysymptomatic.
Symptoms and signs of malabsorption (eg. diarrhea and distention) were significantly more common in younger (P < 0.001)
Methods: This was a a 72-week, double-blind phase 2 trial involving patients with biopsy-confirmed NASH and liver fibrosis of stage F1, F2, or F3. Patients were randomly assigned, in a 3:3:3:1:1:1 ratio, to receive once-daily subcutaneous semaglutide at a dose of 0.1, 0.2, or 0.4 mg or corresponding placebo.
The percentage of patients in whom NASH resolution was achieved with no worsening of fibrosis was 40% in the 0.1-mg group, 36% in the 0.2-mg group, 59% in the 0.4-mg group, and 17% in the placebo group (P<0.001 for semaglutide 0.4 mg vs. placebo).
An improvement in fibrosis stage occurred in 43% of the patients in the 0.4-mg group and in 33% of the patients in the placebo group (P=0.48).
The mean percent weight loss was 13% in the 0.4-mg group and 1% in the placebo group.
Safety: Malignant neoplasms were reported in 3 patients who received semaglutide (1%) and in no patients who received placebo. Overall, neoplasms (benign, malignant, or unspecified) were reported in 15% of the patients in the semaglutide groups and in 8% in the placebo group
Clearly this study indicates that there may be safety concerns with semaglutide. In addition to the malignant neoplasms, there were 8 individuals with colonic polyps in the treatment groups and 7 with renal cysts in the treatment group. However, the authors note that in a recent meta-analysis with 55,921 patients, GLP-1 agonists were not associated with an increased risk of malignant neoplasms (Diabetes Obes Metab 2020; 22: 699-704).
Related article: JPH Wilding et al. NEJM 2021; 384: 989-1002. Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or ObesityKey finding: The mean change in body weight from baseline to week 68 was −14.9% in the semaglutide group as compared with −2.4% with placebo. This study indicates potential for GLP-1 Agonist class for pharmacologic treatment of obesity.
My take: The improvement in NASH with semaglutide is encouraging and perhaps improvement in fibrosis will occur with more time. Yet, more time is also needed to determine if this agent is truly safe in this population. In patients receiving other GLP analogues, vigilance for adverse events is needed as well.
This study derived data from a longitudinal cohort; the sample for this study followed women with and without endometriosis who completed extensive surveys (n=323) and excluded women with celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Cases of IBS were based on patient reports of Rome IV criteria, though 81% were confirmed via medical record review.
“More adolescents with endometriosis (54 of 224; 24%) had comorbid IBS compared with adolescents without endometriosis (7 of 99; 7.1%). The odds of IBS was 5.26-fold higher among participants with endometriosis than without (95% CI, 2.13–13.0).”
“For participants with endometriosis, each 1-point increase in acyclic pain severity increased the odds of IBS by 31% (adjusted odds ratio, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.18–1.47).”
The association of endometriosis with IBS was based on Rome IV criteria, as such, the authors assert that this is “not merely a diagnostic bias” However, some of the increase may be related to referral patterns.
“In the adult literature, pain in the pelvis, menstrual-related symptoms, symptoms related to sexual intercourse, ovarian cysts, and subfertility seem to distinguish women with endometriosis from other GI conditions.”
“Chronic pain syndromes were more prevalent in girls with endometriosis and IBS. Rates of migraine headaches, sleep disturbance, and urinary symptoms were higher…[and] had higher prevalence rates of mood disturbance.”
Why is there overlap between these disorders?
The authors speculate that “the inflammatory process likely plays a role…and central pain sensitization may play a crucial role in the two diseases”
My take: Adolescents with endometriosis have a higher likelihood of IBS. Acyclic pain is a strong predictor of IBS.
1st Advance: In 1796, Edward Jenner “found that an animal virus (cowpox) could protect against disease caused by a human virus (smallpox)… Jenner’s work ultimately led to the eradication of a disease that is estimated to have killed more than 300 million people in the 20th century”
2nd Advance: In 1885, Louis Pasteur developed an inactivated virus vaccine for rabies. This has led to the development of many other inactivated vaccines, including the influenza vaccine.
3rd Advance: In 1937, Max Theiler attenuated yellow fever virus by means of serial passage in mouse and chicken embryos. This has led to the development of numerous attenuated vaccines to prevent polio (Sabin, 1960s), measles (1963), mumps (1967), rubella (1969), varicella (1995), and rotavirus (2008).
4th Advance: In 1980, Stanford biochemists Richard Mulligan and Paul Berg developed recombinant DNA technology which led to vaccines containing purified surface proteins. This led to the hepatitis B virus (1986), human papillomavirus (2006), and influenza virus (2013) vaccines.
Some of the notable improvements related to vaccines:
In U.S., the incidence of polio dropped from 29,000 cases in 1955 to elimination
In U.S., during the “2019–2020 influenza season, the influenza vaccine prevented an estimated 7.52 million infections, 3.69 million medical visits, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6300 deaths”
In U.S., the measles vaccine has nearly eliminated a virus that previously caused 2 million to 3 million infections, 50,000 hospitalizations, and 500 deaths every year
In U.S., “since the hepatitis B virus vaccine started being routinely recommended for newborns in the early 1990s, rates of hepatitis B virus infection among children younger than 10 years have fallen from about 18,000 per year to nearly zero”
Globally, “between 2000 and 2018, roughly 23 million measles deaths were prevented by vaccination…Live attenuated rotavirus vaccines are countering a virus that once killed more than 500,000 infants and young children each year”
5th Advance: In 2020 “with the recent authorization of mRNA vaccines, we have entered the fifth era of vaccinology. This class of vaccines doesn’t contain viral proteins; rather, these vaccines use mRNA, DNA, or viral vectors that provide instructions to cells on how to make such proteins. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic will be an important test of whether these new platforms can fulfill their promise of creating safe, effective, and scalable vaccines more quickly than traditional methods.”
An excerpt: The increasingly controversial charge — basically a room rental fee — comes without warning, as hospitals are not required to inform patients of it ahead of time…
Hospitals say they charge the fee to cover their overhead for providing 24/7 care, when needed. Stamatis also noted the cost of additional regulatory requirements and services “that help drive quality improvement and assurance, but do increase costs.“
But facility fees are one reason hospital prices are rising faster than physician prices, according to a 2019 research article in Health Affairs….The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has attempted to curtail facility fees by introducing a site-neutral payment policy. The American Hospital Association sued over the move and plans to take the case to the Supreme Court.
My take: When hospitals own physician practices, there are often hidden costs. NPR recommends: “Ask outright if there will be a facility fee — and how much — even if there has not been one before. If it’s an elective procedure, you can search for a cheaper provider.”