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, 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.

AAP Guidelines for Down Syndrome & Screening for Celiac Disease Plus One (How to Fix Diarrhea)

The AAP has updated recommendations for Down syndrome: MJ Bull et al. Pediatrics (2022) 149 (5): e2022057010. Open Access: Health Supervision for Children and Adolescents With Down Syndrome

For gastroenterologists, one area of concern is screening for celiac disease in this population due to a mildly increased risk.

Here is what is recommended in children after 1 year of age:

“For children on a diet that contains gluten, review for symptoms potentially related to celiac disease at each health supervision visit because children with Down syndrome are at increased risk. These symptoms include diarrhea or protracted constipation, slow growth, unexplained failure to thrive, anemia, abdominal pain or bloating, or refractory developmental or behavioral problems.9799  For those with symptoms, obtain a tissue transglutaminase immunoglobulin A (TTG IgA) concentration and simultaneous quantitative IgA. The quantitative IgA is important, because an IgA deficiency renders the TTG IgA unreliable. Refer patients with abnormal laboratory values for specialty assessment. Do not institute a gluten-free diet before confirmation of the diagnosis, because lack of gluten can make interpretation of endoscopic results difficult. There is no evidence that routine screening of asymptomatic individuals would be beneficial. There are neither data nor consensus that would indicate whether patients with persistent symptoms who had normal laboratory values on initial evaluation should have further laboratory tests.”

In addition to celiac disease, the AAP article has a ton of useful resources regarding Down syndrome for clinicians and families.

My take: Celiac disease is difficult to diagnose and is much more common in children with Down syndrome. It is worth noting that other Down syndrome groups, NICE and NASPGHAN have recommended screening for celiac in all children with Down syndrome. (Ref: M Pavlovic et al. World J Clin Cases. 2017 Jul 16; 5(7): 264–269. Open Access: Screening of celiac disease in Down syndrome – Old and new dilemmas)

Related blog posts:

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Also, a keen observation from Carlo Di Lorenzo’s twitter feed:

The corollary of this is how miraculous it is when a child who has not stooled for 3 weeks straight has no residual markers after swallowing a Sitz capsule.

Understanding Rapid COVID-19 Testing Compared to PCR Testing

VT Chu et al. JAMA Intern MedPublished online April 29, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2022.1827. Open Access: Comparison of Home Antigen Testing With RT-PCR and Viral Culture During the Course of SARS-CoV-2 Infection

Background: This was a prospective cohort study of 225 adults and children comparing reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)–confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection with antigen testing (QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test) and viral culture (January to May 2021)

Key findings:

  • Rapid testing (antigen) sensitivity was 64% and viral culture sensitivity was 84% when compared with same-day RT-PCR and viral culture
  • Rapid testing (antigen) sensitivity peaked 4 days after illness onset (77%); a second test 1 to 2 days later showed improved sensitivity (81%-85%)

My take: This study shows that a single rapid test is NOT adequate to exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection, especially if they are symptomatic (need to recheck 1-2 days later if negative rapid test). The reliability/accuracy/sensitivity is likely to vary greatly between different rapid tests and may change significantly with different viral variants.

@MondayNightIBD and Acute Severe Ulcerative Colitis Algorithm

A summary of the discussion and more detailed information on this topic from Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News (4/20/22): Open Access: ASUC: A Medical and Surgical Emergency Requiring Comprehensive, Timely Multidisciplinary Care

Lab workup per article:

For infliximab salvage therapy, the article recommends re-dosing at 3-5 days after initial dose.

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition

IBD Shorts: Pediatric Colonic CD, UC Colectomy Risk Factors, Ustekimumab for 5 years

TD Berger et al. JPGN 2022; 74: 258-266. Clinical Features and Outcomes of Paediatric Patients With Isolated Colonic Crohn Disease

This study focused on 94 with isolated colonic Crohn’s disease (L2). Key findings: Response to enteral nutrition (78.3%) was comparable to those with L1 disease (82.4%) (n=104). Skp lesions and granulomas, identified in 65% and 36% in those with L2 disease was similar to those with L1 disease.

JS Hyams et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2022; 28: 151-160. Open Access: Clinical and Host Biological Factors Predict Colectomy Risk in Children Newly Diagnosed With Ulcerative Colitis

Key findings:

  • 25/428 (6%) children with recently diagnosed UC underwent colectomy at ≤1 year, 33 (9%) at ≤2 years, and 35 (13%) at ≤3 years. 
  • An initial PUCAI ≥ 65 was highly associated with colectomy (P = 0.0001)
  • A  pretreatment rectal gene expression panel showed that patients who had colectomy had significantly higher values for this genetic signature in comparison with those who did not require colectomy

WJ Sandborn et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 20: 578-590. Open Access: Five-Year Efficacy and Safety of Ustekinumab Treatment in Crohn’s Disease: The IM-UNITI Trial

Key findings:

  • Using an intent-to-treat analysis of all patients randomized to ustekinumab at maintenance baseline, 34.4% of patients in the every-8-weeks group and 28.7% in the every-12-weeks group were in clinical remission at week 252. In the 8 week group in the long-term extension portion of the study the rate was 54.9%
  • Adverse effect profile (per 100 patient-years): generally were similar in the placebo and combined ustekinumab groups for all adverse events (440.3 vs 327.6), serious adverse events (19.3 vs 17.5), infections (99.8 vs 93.8), and serious infections (3.9 vs 3.4).
White Sands (actually gypsum) at White Sands National Park, NM

“For Hospitalized Patients With ASUC, 5-ASA Adds No Value to Steroids”

From Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News (4/25/22): Open Access: For Hospitalized Patients With ASUC, 5-ASA Adds No Value to Steroids

In the first prospective randomized study, presented at the 2022 Crohn’s & Colitis Congress and published in Inflammatory Bowel Dis (S Ben-Horin et al 2022;28 [suppl 1]:S14 CORTICOSTEROIDS AND 5ASA VERSUS CORTICOSTEROIDS ALONE FOR ACUTE SEVERE ULCERATIVE COLITIS: A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL), investigators at 10 centers in six countries randomly assigned 149 patients hospitalized for ASUC to receive daily doses of 300 mg of hydrocortisone (or equivalent methylprednisolone) alone or in combination with 4 g of mesalamine.

Key findings:

  • 72.6% of patients receiving combination corticosteroids with 5-ASA responded to treatment at one week compared with 76.3% of responders in the group receiving corticosteroids alone
  • “There were no differences in hospital length of stay between groups (median, 10 vs. nine days for the combination and monotherapy groups, respectively), the proportion of patients whose C-reactive protein level normalized (34.2% vs. 34.3%, respectively), or the proportion requiring colectomy within 90 days (4.9% vs. 4.5%, respectively).”
  • While 5-ASAs did not alter the trajectory of acute colitis, one other finding was a lower rate of biologic use (27% vs 47%, P=.07) at 90 days in those who continued to receive 5-ASA therapy at 90 days.

My take: 5-ASAs do not appear to be helpful during hospitalization for ASUC but may be beneficial as a maintenance therapy in some patients.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition

How Industry Manipulates Physicians For Product Promotion

As an homage to May 4th, I wanted to highlight an AAP report that reminded me of Yoda telling Luke Skywalker: “If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.”

DS Diekema. AAP Committee on Bioethics. Pediatrics 2022; 149: e2022056549. Open Access. Health Care Clinicians and Product Promotion by Industry.


  • “In 2016, pharmaceutical companies spent $29.9 billion on marketing, of which $20.3 billion (68%) was directed toward health care clinicians in the form of prescriber detailing ($5.6 billion), free samples ($13.5 billion), direct physician payments related to specific drugs ($979 million), and disease education ($59 million)”
  • “In 2019, 615 000 physicians received payments or investment interests worth $3.6 billion (an average of $5854 per physician recipient), and 1194 teaching hospitals accepted payments totaling $2.63 billion”
  • “Despite their own sense of invulnerability to persuasive techniques, physicians do consider other physicians to be vulnerable.125  This phenomenon is what social scientists refer to as the “bias blind spot.”147  As a general rule, individuals underestimate the degree to which they are influenced by cognitive and motivational bias and overestimate the degree to which others are influenced by the same things.147 

Key points:

“In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini summarizes this literature and describes 6 basic categories of effective persuasive techniques.57

  • Commitment and Consistency…Industry representatives are trained to get health care clinicians to make a verbal commitment to use their products…once the health care clinician has tried the drug on 5 patients, he or she is more likely to continue to use the drug.7 
  • Social Proof…When told that almost all of the physicians in the region are now using drug A to treat disease B, a health care clinician will be hard-pressed not to join the group”
  • Liking… Humans tend to be more responsive and receptive to individuals who are friendly, likeable, and attractive”
  • Appeals to Authority…The use of opinion leaders and experts to give lectures supporting the use of a product”
  • Scarcity…Opportunities to engage in consulting and speaking opportunities fall into this category”
  • Reciprocation…A sense of obligation to reciprocate accompanies the receipt of any favor, gift, or kindness. Gifts can take many forms and need not be valuable.”

Reciprocation Elaborated:

  • “Much cognitive activity occurs without conscious awareness, and the most effective marketing and persuasion strategies are designed to engage the subconscious aspects of decision making…Decision making appears to rely on dual systems within the brain, a socioemotional system” and the cognitive control system.
  • “The socioemotional system tends to involve rapid, automatic processing that is often reactive, intuitive, unconscious, and sensitive to social norms…Effective marketing strategies, including the use of incentives and gifts and the nurturing of relationships, are designed to engage the socioemotional decision-making areas of the brain”
  • “The cognitive control system, on the other hand, tends to be consciously controlled, reasoned, and analytic and requires more time and conscious effort”
  • “Most health care clinicians believe they cannot be bribed and that they would never trade a small gift for changing their prescribing behavior…Gifts may subtly and subconsciously affect the way the receiver of the gift evaluates the information provided by the gift giver, and these feelings of indebtedness may ultimately lead to changes in prescribing behavior”

“With regard to the receipt of gifts from the industry, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has endorsed the AMA guidelines, which do not prohibit gifts outright but offer the following basic principles for managing them:198 

  • Physicians should decline cash gifts in any amount from an entity that has a direct interest in physicians’ treatment recommendations.
  • Physicians should decline any gifts for which reciprocity is expected or implied.
  • Physicians should accept an in-kind gift for the physician’s practice only when the gift is of minimal value and will directly benefit patients, including patient education.
  • Academic institutions and residency and fellowship programs may accept special funding on behalf of trainees to support their participation in professional meetings, including educational meetings, provided the program identifies recipients based on independent institutional criteria and funds are distributed to recipients without specific attribution to sponsors”

As a final incentive,  “in late 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General issued a special fraud alert highlighting concerns … in connection with speaker programs.” The Office of the Inspector General warned both companies and health care professionals that such arrangements may, under certain circumstances, violate antikickback statutes.”

My take (from the report): “At a minimum, health care clinicians should be cognizant of the techniques used to attempt to alter their behavior and guard against them.”

Related blog posts:

“How Can You Tell If You Have Good-Quality Health Care?”

The blog title is a quote from Avedis Donabedian, a pioneer in the study of health care quality.

L Rosenbaum. NEJM 2022; 386: 1663-1667. Reassessing Quality Assessment — The Flawed System for Fixing a Flawed System

Background -Cost: “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spent about $1.3 billion on measure development and maintenance between 2008 and 2018.3 Hospitals’ QI investments vary with their size, but data from the National Academy of Medicine suggest that health systems each employ 50 to 100 people for $3.5 million to $12 million per year to support measurement efforts…[and] if good care is the goal, the greatest cost of all this activity may be wasted time.”

Key points:

  • It is hard to know if health care quality is improving after early successes in “reducing nosocomial infections,8,9 improving surgical outcomes,10 and improving processes of care for patients with pneumonia, heart failure, or myocardial infarction.”
  • One study found only 37% of CMS’s Merit-Based Incentive Payment System for internal medicine were valid.
  • “Once a measure is implemented and tied to a financial incentive, an entire industry arises to boost organizations’ scores on that measure… a tremendous amount of resources are directed toward the appearance of quality rather than its substance… QI has become more a box-checking exercise for billing purposes than a meaningful act to improve care.”
  • Even if QI measures are important, there has not been adequate “consideration of whether the movement’s costs are justified by its benefits.”
  • Lost in the grumbling: “doctors want the best care for their patients.” However, there are considerable documentation burdens tied to demonstrating quality.
  • “Using internal performance standards to motivate better care — which many physicians embrace — differs starkly from using external financial incentives to improve quality.”
  • Quality metrics remain hampered by faulty risk adjustment.

Paradoxical Effects of Quality Improvement Efforts

  • Since ” better-resourced hospitals can afford administrative support to optimize billing, value-based payment initiatives can also worsen inequities…after implementation of CMS’s value-based purchasing programs, safety-net hospitals disproportionately bore the brunt of financial penalties…Billions of dollars are thus being transferred from poorly resourced hospitals or those serving the sickest patients to well-resourced hospitals, worsening the disparities we claim to be trying to fix.”
  • Also, there is “the broader irony of attempting to reduce spending with programs that create untold administrative costs and possibly greater net costs to the system long term. For instance, smaller practices that are unable to afford these administrative costs are increasingly being bought by larger health systems that sometimes charge higher prices.”

My take: It is worthwhile to try to improve quality and value in healthcare, but, not surprisingly, quite difficult to achieve. Unintended associated consequences of current efforts include an epidemic of burnout and workforce demoralization.

Related blog posts:

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

“Crossing Lines” and Why Firearm Deaths are The Leading Cause of Death in Children

LK Lee et al. N Engl J Med 2022; 386:1485-1487. Open Access: Crossing Lines — A Change in the Leading Cause of Death among U.S. Children

This short commentary explains how the childhood deaths due to motor vehicle accidents have improved. “The crossing of these trend lines demonstrates how a concerted approach to injury prevention can reduce injuries and deaths — and, conversely, how a public health problem can be exacerbated in the absence of such attention.”

Esophageal Squamous Papilloma in the Pediatric Population

N Malhotra et al JPGN Reports 2022; doi: 10.1097/PG9.0000000000000178. Open Access: Esophageal Squamous Papilloma in the Pediatric Population

  • This is a case report of 4 cases of esophageal squamous papilloma (ESP); Three out of the 4 cases of ESP identified at our institution were positive for HPV in situ hybridization.
  • “Chronic mucosal irritation due to GERD or HPV is thought to be the most common cause of ESP…a recent study failed to identify a relationship between the prevalence of HPV and the occurrence of ESP in pediatric patients”
  • “Small esophageal lesions can be managed by excisional biopsy; however, conservative management is advised when the disease is extensive to avoid mucosal scarring and stenosis…Acid suppression may decrease ongoing inflammation.”
  • “Vaccinating children with active HPV infection could theoretically increase the immune response and potentially aid in clearance of lesions caused by the disease.”

Related blog post: Esophageal Squamous Papilloma in Children Are Rare