About gutsandgrowth

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, hepatitis C, 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 17 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 (both adults). I like to read, walk/hike, bike, swim, and play tennis with my free time. I do not have any financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies or other financial relationships to disclose. I have participated in industry-sponsored research studies.

Pneumatosis Intestinalis in Children with Intestinal Failure

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ML Reppucci et al. JPGN 2023; 76: 561-565. Pneumatosis Intestinalis in Children With Intestinal Failure: The Result of Intestinal Stress From Enteral Feeding?

This was a single-center, retrospective review (n=111) of children with intestinal failure (2019-2022). Key findings:

  • 30.6% of patients (34 of 111) developed PI
  • Only one patient had a surgical cause (midgut volvulus) identified

The authors speculate that enteral feedings, in some, cause a stress (?relative ischemia, ?intraluminal pressure) which leads to pneumatosis.

My take: We still don’t understand pneumatosis intestinalis (PI) very well outside of the neonatal population where it is often a life-threatening medical condition.

Related blog post: Image Only: Pneumatosis Intestinalis in Necrotizing Enterocolitis

How Obesity Permeates Transplant Medicine

A Mathur. Liver Transplantation 2023; 29: 465-466. Open Access! Salvaging the fatty liver for transplant: is short duration NMP enough? (ed)

 “As of 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) notes that 40% of the ~258 million US adults suffer from obesity. This represents just more than a 100 million people suffering from obesity. In addition, about 23 million people suffer from severe obesity with a body mass index >40 kg/m2.” Fatty liver disease (aka NAFLD), driven primarily by obesity, is a leading cause of liver transplantation. In addition, fatty liver disease is impacting the ability to treat liver failure.

“The end result of this epidemic is that we are identifying a greater proportion of organ donors with varying degrees of liver steatosis. Transplantation of steatotic livers is associated with an increased degree of ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) and release of inflammatory cytokines from the graft. The consequences of this can range from severe reperfusion syndromes with immediate vasoplegia and circulatory collapse to distant organ dysfunction with acute kidney injury, liver allograft dysfunction, and primary nonfunction (PNF).”

In order to try to identify suitable liver organs for transplantation, researchers are trying to identify strategies to utilize steatotic grafts safely. Patrono et al (Liver Transplantation 2023; 29: 508-502) examined the feasibility of using normothermic machine perfusion (NMP) in the setting of macrovesicular steatosis (MaS) ≥30%. They identified 10 patients who had liver transplants using NMP in patients with MaS ≥30%; 4 additional organs were not used despite NMP. 8 of 10 patients showed good liver function, representing 57% (8 of 14) of NMP fatty organs.

Another study in the same issue (NB Ha et al. Liver Transplantation 2023; 29: 476-484) showed that patients with sarcopenic obesity (=low muscle mass obesity) had high waitlist mortality of 40% compared to 21% and 12% for those with sarcopenia without obesity and for those with obesity without sarcopenia, respectively.

My take: Obesity increases the risk of fatty liver associated cirrhosis/liver failure, and is impacting the availability of suitable organs for those in need. Furthermore, in those with obesity, the presence of sarcopenia increases the risk of death on transplant waitlist.

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Answering Patient Questions: AI Does Better Than Doctors

Eric Topol (4/28/23): When Patient Questions Are Answered With Higher Quality and Empathy by ChatGPT than Physicians

RE: JW Ayers et al. JAMA Intern Med 2023; doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2023.1838 Open Access! Comparing Physician and Artificial Intelligence Chatbot Responses to Patient Questions Posted to a Public Social Media Forum

Thanks to Jeff Lewis for sharing Eric Topol’s article. Here are some excerpts:

In JAMA Internal Medicine, a new report compared the quality and empathy of responses to patient questions for doctors vs ChatGPT, a generative AI model that has already been superseded by GPT4…

Researchers at UCSD used the Reddit social media platform (Reddit’s/AskDocs) to randomly selected 195 patient questions that had been answered by verified, volunteer physicians and also posed them to ChatGPT in an identical fashion. The answers were reviewed by a panel of 3 health care professionals blinded to whether the response was from a doctor or the chatbot…

The results were pretty striking, as shown in the graph below. For quality, the evaluators preferred the ChatGPT response 79% of the time; the quality score of good and very good was 79% for the chatbot vs 22% for physicians, a near 4-fold difference. That gap was even greater for empathy rating of the responses, nearly 10-fold higher favoring the chatbot, for proportion of empathetic or very empathic responses (45.1 vs 4.6%). As would be expected, the length of responses by doctors was significantly reduced (average of 52 vs 211 words, respectively). Of course, doctors have less time available and machines can generate such long-form output in seconds…

Several examples were presented, and I show one below that is representative. This actually happened to my mother-in-law several years ago and it was quite a frightening incident with extensive corneal injury.There were definite limitations of the study, since the questions were derived from a social medial platform, not from physicians who were actually involved in the care of the patient asking questions. And, of course, this was not comparing the additivity of a chatbot plus a physician..

My take: This study indicates that physicians/patients may benefit from leveraging chatbots to improve communication.  Artificial intelligence assistants can aid in drafting responses to patient questions. Though physicians, at this time, are more capable of providing patient-specific information. For more general questions, chatbots appear to do quite well. My personal office-related experience with ChatGPT includes drafting an appeal letter, providing educational material on encopresis, helping with a condolence letter, and researching a rare condition. Just two days ago (at the time of drafting this post), I asked ChatGPT to explain ulcerative colitis and treatments, including mesalamine and steroids, at an 8th grade reading level in Spanish. I found this was a good way to start a conversation with a family.

This study was covered in many news outlets including WSJ, CNN, Yahoo, Daily Mall…

Related blog posts:

Does Positioning Help Infants with Reflux?

IM Paul et al. JPGN Reports 2023; 4(2):p e312. Open Access! Pilot Study of Inclined Position and Infant Gastroesophageal Reflux Indicators

Methods: Healthy infants aged 1–5 months with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (N = 25) and controls (N = 10) were enrolled into one post-feed observation. Infants were monitored in a prototype reclining device for consecutive 15-minute periods in supine position with head elevations of 0°, 10°, 18°, and 28° in random order. Continuous pulse oximetry assessed hypoxia (O2 saturation <94%) and bradycardia (heart rate <100).

Key findings:

  • Overall, 17 (68%) infants had 80 episodes of hypoxia (median 20 seconds duration), 13 (54%) had 33 episodes of bradycardia (median 22 seconds duration), and 15 (60%) had 28 episodes of regurgitation.
  • For all 3 outcomes, incident rate ratios were not significantly different between positions, and no differences were discovered for observed symptoms or infant comfort.

Limitations: This was a one-feeding study with a small number of infants

My take: This study shows a high frequency of transient hypoxia and bradycardia in healthy infants with regurgitation. In addition, there was not improvement in reflux parameters in the inclined position.

Related blog posts:

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Incredible Review of GERD, BRUE, Aspiration, and Gastroparesis

Recently, Rachel Rosen gave a terrific review of reflux and reflux-related entities as part of our annual William (Billy) Meyers lectureship.  This lecture information would be helpful for every pediatric gastroenterologist as well as every pediatrician, pediatric ENT, pediatric pulmonologist, pediatric SLP and lactation specialist.  It puts to rest many obsolete ideas about reflux and its management. Some of her points have been covered by this blog previously (see links below) and by her bowel sounds podcast (see link below).   Some errors of omission and transcription may have occurred as I took notes during this lecture. 

Main points:


  1. Using the label “GERD” increases the likelihood that an infant will be prescribed acid blockers; this phenomenon is noted as well with SLP and lactation specialist team members.  Everyone needs to be careful about ascribing infant symptoms to “reflux disease”
  2. AR formulas need acid to increase their viscosity (don’t use PPIs in infants taking AR formulas). Also, AR formula viscosity is hindered when mixed with breastmilk (don’t mix with breastmilk)
  3. Most infants with reflux have nonacid reflux.  PPIs do not help nonacid reflux
  4. PPIs are associated with increased aspiration and infection risks.  Acid suppression has been associated with increased risk of allergic diseases
  5. Rumination can look a lot like reflux on pH probe studies
  6. Reflux hypersensitivity, and functional heartburn can result in similar symptoms as reflux (can be distinguished with pH testing)
  7. Pepsin can increase lung inflammation and can be increased by PPI use
  8. Red airway appearance is NOT indicative of reflux (poor specificity, poor sensitivity)
  9. If having symptoms with transpyloric feedings, this indicates that the symptoms are NOT due to reflux; transpyloritc feedings have similar efficacy as a fundoplication
  10. Avoid fundoplication.  It does not result in fewer hospitalizations or improve pulmonary outcomes.  It can result in a number of complications
  11. Consider genotyping for CYP2C19 pharmacogenetics in patients receiving chronic PPI.  Those with rapid metabolism could benefit from higher doses.  Those with slow metabolism could benefit from lower doses.  Higher doses of PPIs increase risk for infections
  12. Bolus feedings result in fewer problems than continuous feedings

Delayed Gastric Emptying (Gastroparesis)

  1. Delayed GE is associated with increased lung bile acids.  This is important in lung transplant recipients and increased lung bile acids is seen more commonly in those with frequent admissions for respiratory issues
  2. In Dr. Rosen’s experience, prucalopride is currently the most useful promotility agent in documented gastroparesis


  1.  Infants with BRUE need to be tested for aspiration, not prescribed PPIs.
  2.  VSS (aka OPMS) has the highest yield of any test in infants with BRUE (~72% abnormal testing in one study). 
  3. Silent aspiration is common -don’t rely on SLP bedside assessment.
  4. Even with this diagnosis, many infants are still prescribed PPIs which increase the risk of complications (more hospitalizations, more infections, possible increase in allergies)


  1. There are a number of potential etiologies, though most infants have aspiration due to neurological reasons (most transitory and improved by 7 months of age)
  2. In Boston, less than 5% with aspiration on VSS required GT placement
  3. Thickeners can be very helpful.  Practitioners need to know the differences (don’t use Simply Thick in 1st year of life due to NEC risk)

Chronic Cough:

  1. ~10% of kids with chronic cough have eosinophilic esophagitis (who have seen GI in Boston)

Related blog posts:

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Increasing Violence in Health Care Settings

NPR 5/15/23: Hospitals create police forces to stem growing violence against staff

An excerpt:

This May, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed a law that boosts criminal penalties for assaults against hospital workers and allows health care facilities in the state to create independent police forces. The law is a response to that testimony as well as hospital lobbying and data documenting a rise in violence against health care workers. In enacting the law, Georgia joined other states attempting to reverse a rise in violence over the last several years through stiffer criminal penalties and enhanced law enforcement…

Health care workers are five times as likely to experience violence as employees in other industries, according to federal data. On May 3, the day after Kemp signed the Safer Hospitals Act into law, a person opened fire in a midtown Atlanta medical office, killing one woman and injuring four others, including workers at the medical practice…

Health centers say they are better able to retain workers and improve patient care when they can reduce the number of violent incidents,

Endoscopy Complications in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Population

J Chan et al. JPGN 2023; 76: 494-497. Complications and Utility of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Post Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation: An 11 Year Experience

In this study, sixty-six of 339 (19%) HSCT needed an “endoscopy episode.” Key findings:

  • Four of 119 (3%) endoscopies had complications: septic shock (1), duodenal hematoma (1), GI bleeding (1), and colonic perforation (1). 
  • Fifty-seven of 62 (92%) endoscopy episodes were “clinically useful,” and 41 of 62 (66%) had a change in immunosuppressive treatment.

My take: Endoscopy provides useful information in children following HSCT. However, the consent needs to reflect the much higher risk in this population.

Related blog posts:

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Guilt of Breastfeeding Failure

In previous posts, this blog (see below) has examined the potential bias of studies reporting better outcomes in breastfed infants along with issues of maternal guilt. A recent commentary explores the issue of feeling guilty when breastfeeding does not go well.

AJ Kennedy. NEJM 2023; 388:1447-1449. Breast or Bottle — The Illusion of Choice

Some excerpts:

Only about 25% of women in the United States exclusively breast-feed for the recommended period.2  After my struggles, these statistics seem realistic to me, but before I went through it myself, I had no concept of how hard it could be…

Around the time my son turned 6 months old…my primary care doctor… gave me the courage to start taking medication and to stop breast-feeding that very week. Though the guilt about stopping has never fully gone away, the joy and happiness in my life quickly returned…

Even after I’ve told them that I might not choose to breast-feed this time around [with 2nd child], multiple doctors have “reminded” me that breast milk has been shown to carry Covid-19 antibodies — yet another reason to feel ashamed if I choose not to breast-feed…I am hopeful that this time around I can embrace formula feeding more quickly if that is the path that works best for me and my baby,…

I encourage the AAP and other national health organizations to consider how their statements on exclusive breast-feeding are perceived by the public. If 75% of us are not meeting this goal [6 months of exclusive breastfeeding], a more patient-centered approach and recommendation is needed.

My take: Breastfeeding does not work for everyone. Parents often feel guilty about perceived short-comings and we need to find a balance in encouraging breastfeeding but acknowledging that formula feeding is a good alternative.

Related blog posts:

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How Helpful is a Referral to Child Protective Services

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M Evangelist et al. Child Abuse & Neglect; 2023; 136: 105994. Child protective services contact and youth outcomes

Methods: The study used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal birth cohort study of children born in 20 US cities. Study outcomes were “based on age-15 interviews with the focal children and their caregivers with sample sizes ranging from 2088 to 2327 across outcomes. The relationship between CPS contact and child wellbeing was estimated using the propensity score method of inverse probability of treatment weighting.”

Key findings:

“Despite a federal mandate to improve child wellbeing, we found no evidence that contact with the child welfare system improves child outcomes. Rather, CPS contact was associated with worse mental health and developmental outcomes” including associated increases in smoking (88% increase), in being expelled from school (18% increase), in depression (7.5% increase, and in anxiety (6.9% increase).

My take: While protecting children and reporting abuse/neglect are mandated, it is not clear that involvement of CPS results in better outcomes.

Related blog posts: A Cautionary Tale –Is it Medical Child Abuse?

Historically-Stupid Opinion in Bruen Case Endangers Vulnerable to Gun Violence & Ajay Kaul Bowel Sounds Podcast

E Tobin-Tyler. NEJM 2023; 388: 1345-1347. Courts’ Disregard for Women’s Health and Safety — Intimate Partner Violence, Firearms, and “History and Tradition”

A few excerpts:

In June 2022, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which left the door open for constitutional challenges to virtually any state or federal firearm restriction.  One of these restrictions is a federal law passed in 1994 as part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that makes it unlawful for people subject to certain domestic violence–related restraining orders to possess a firearm or ammunition for the duration of the order.

Writing for the majority in Bruen, Justice Clarence Thomas struck down New York’s restrictions on who may carry a firearm in public. In doing so, he declared that a government arguing in support of a restriction on firearm possession has the burden of showing that its regulation “is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”..

On the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen, a federal district judge on November 10, 2022, held in United States v. Perez-Gallan that the VAWA’s restriction on firearm possession by people subject to restraining orders is unconstitutional…

Searching for relevant laws from the 18th and 19th centuries to justify current laws protecting people who have experienced IPV (intimate partner violence) obscures the fact that married women weren’t even considered legal subjects until the late 19th century. Instead, they were understood to be the property of their husbands.1 Black women who were enslaved, married or not, had no legal rights. “Wife beating” did not become illegal in some states until the late 19th century…

In Rahimi, the court applied Bruen’s “history and tradition” analysis to a case involving a person who not only was subject to a restraining order because he had allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend, but also had been involved in incidents in which he had fired a gun at people and at a constable’s car…The court determined that under Bruen’s analysis, there is no reason to consider the potential consequences for people experiencing IPV of permitting their abusers to possess guns. 

My take: Deciding gun ownership laws solely on the basis of ‘history and tradition’ is incredibly stupid. Research shows that restriction of access to firearms by domestic abusers results in lower rates of gun deaths. This supreme court will allow anyone to possess a firearm, except those in their vicinity.

Related article: The Hill (5/11/23): Federal judge rules adults ages 18-20 cannot be blocked from purchasing handguns. “A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that federal laws prohibiting 18-to-20-year-olds from getting handguns at federally licensed firearms dealers are unconstitutional…The judge concluded that the Second Amendment’s “right of the people to keep and bear Arms” applies to people in that age group. “Because the statutes and regulations in question are not consistent with our Nation’s history and tradition, they, therefore, cannot stand,” Payne wrote. 

Related blog posts:

Also, I want to give a shout out to Ajay Kaul (who completed his training in Cincy one year after I did) and his recent Bowel Sounds Podcast. Ajay is a terrific person. This was a good review on Achalasia and a reminder of the improvements in motility testing. A good clinical pearl was to ask anesthesiology to intubate patients with suspected achalasia to protect their airway.

Listen now! Link to podcast: Ajay Kaul – Esophageal Achalasia in Children

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