70,000 kids injured by medical devices each year

Contact lenses, IV tubes lead list of items causing trips to the emergency room

Injuries from contact lenses,
intravenous tubes and other medical devices send more than 70,000 American
children to emergency rooms each year, a new study shows.

“The device injury rate among the
kids were driven by only a handful of device categories,” said lead author Dr.
Cunlin Wang, a medical epidemiologist in the Office of Surveillance and
Biometrics at the US Food and Drug Administration. “Seventy per cent of the
device injuries are coming from ophthalmic devices, general hospital and ob/gyn
devices.”

The report is published in the
August issue of Pediatrics.

The researchers combed through
information from a national injury-reporting database. They focused on children
treated in emergency departments for medical device-related injuries from early
2004 through late 2005.

The team report that during that
two-year period, 144,799 such visits occurred nationwide, encompassing 13
medical specialities. The majority of injuries were from contact lenses (23 per
cent) followed by hypodermic needles (8 per cent).

The most common types of injuries
were contusions and abrasions, foreign-body intrusions, punctures, lacerations
and infections. Most often, injuries affected the eyeball, pubic area, fingers,
face and ears.

The most common injuries overall
were related to contact lenses causing damage to the eyeball, the researchers
found. Among young children, the most common problems are with shunts
(implanted devices that allow passage of fluid within the body), intravenous
tubes and tubes placed in the stomach.

As children progressed from early
to late childhood the frequency of injuries linked to medical devices dropped.
However, they rose again after age 10.

For children aged 10 and younger,
boys were more likely to be injured than girls, while in the 16-to-21 age
group, girls had more injuries than boys, the team found.

“This study is an important
estimate of device injury that we have in the paediatric population,” Dr. Wang
said, noting that before this study there was no such estimate, he added.

Ophthalmic devices include contact
lenses, eye glasses and eye protection devices. General hospital devices
include infusion pumps, catheters and even hospital beds. Ob/gyn devices
include contraceptive devices and injury from vaginal exams, according to the
study.

By focusing attention on these
specific areas it might be possible to cut down the number of injuries children
sustain from medical devices, Dr. Wang said. “The scope and severity of
paediatric device-associated adverse events underscore the need for more
intensive preventive efforts,” he and his colleagues wrote.

One expert agreed that, among young
children, the bulk of device-linked injuries are tied to tubes placed in the
stomach, shunts or IV tubes.

“We see a few of those a week,”
said Dr. Valerie T. Thompson, an assistant professor of clinical paediatric and
division director of paediatric emergency medicine and medical director of the
paediatric emergency department at the University of Miami Miller School of
Medicine.

Wider education is key to curbing
the numbers, she added.

“We need to find a window of time
to educate parents” on the dangers of medical devices and their safe use, Dr.
Thompson said.

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