New Research From Packard Children's Hospital Experts Presented at 2008 Pediatric Academic Societies' Annual Meeting

PALO ALTO, Calif., April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Preterm birth, healthy eating and neonatal jaundice are among the many topics to be discussed by Lucile Packard Children's Hospital physicians at the upcoming Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in Honolulu May 2-6. Here are just a few summaries of planned presentations. For more information or to reach one of the researchers, call Robert Dicks at (650) 387-7500 or email [email protected]

Preterm boys struggle more at school

Recent research suggests that birth certificates may one day trump report cards as harbingers of trouble at school. Developmental pediatrician Trenna Sutcliffe, MD, and her colleagues previously showed that even slightly preterm infants tend to struggle academically years later. Now they go on to show that boys born between four to six weeks early are significantly more likely than equally preterm girls to have trouble reading and to require individualized education programs or special education during their first six years of school. The finding suggests that physicians and educators should be particularly vigilant in tracking the progress of preterm boys and to intervene quickly if they need extra help academically.

Gender Differences in a Mouse Model of Preterm Birth

Slightly preterm babies might struggle in school, but severely preterm infants struggle with life itself. Although the stakes are immeasurably higher, once again boys are at a disadvantage-but until now no one knew why they tended to have smaller brain volumes and were more likely to have cognitive deficits than equally preterm girls. Now, neonatologist Anna Penn, MD, and her colleagues have discovered that newborn male mice exposed to abnormally low levels of oxygen lost greater brain volume than did newborn females under the same conditions. This new experimental model will allow researchers to investigate the basis of gender-specific differences in preterm humans.

Breastfeeding for premature infants is particularly difficult

All natural isn't at all easy for many moms trying to breast feed their preterm infants. It's not unusual for early babies to struggle to latch correctly or to be too weak to nurse effectively. Pumping breast milk traps tired, worried new mothers in a difficult cycle from machine to baby and back again. Neonatologist Jeffrey Gould, MD, studied more than 6,500 very low birth weight infants in California and found that only about 60% of these children were receiving any breast milk at their time of discharge. Younger and smaller infants, as well as those who spent longer in the hospital, tended to receive less breast milk. Babies who were African American or Hispanic, those who had a mother under the age of 20, and those who received no prenatal care or experienced medical complications after birth were also given less breast milk. Identifying high-risk groups such as these should allow more successful interventions aimed at supporting breast milk feeding.

Catching up, or falling behind?

Parents of premature infants are often assured that their child will catch-up to their peers developmentally within a couple of years. However, developmental pediatrician Heidi Feldman, MD, has found that more than half of her sample of 98 premature children continued to lag in cognition and language at age 2, and 42% continued to score below expectations at pre-school age. She and her colleagues suggest that more aggressive early intervention from birth to age 3 may help these children catch-up to their full-term classmates.

Dangerous Surfing

You can find almost anything you want on the Internet -- including Websites promoting eating disorders and self-injury. Other sites refer to specific weight loss and harmful behaviors as a way to promote recovery from the disorders. Although such sites have raised alarms among parents and physicians, their health effects have not been determined. Adolescent medicine and eating disorder specialist Rebecka Peebles, MD, conducted an online survey of 965 older adolescent females (ages 18 to 24.9) with eating disorders. She found that nearly one-third of the respondents regularly visited all three types of Websites. Furthermore, these 'triple users' were more likely to report trying dangerous weight loss behaviors like using laxatives, diet pills or supplements after visiting the sites. The results confirm what many have feared: visiting these types of sites is associated with dangerous weight loss behaviors in people with eating disorders.

Lose Weight, Not Vitamins

Gastric bypass surgery can be a life-saving option for morbidly obese adolescents. But a new study by Craig Albanese, MD, chief of pediatric general surgery, shows that teens who undergo the procedure need to be particularly careful about maintaining their intake of various micronutrients. Albanese and his colleagues found that about 50% of pediatric gastric bypass patients were deficient in their stores of vitamin D, which is needed to maintain bone health, one year after surgery, and about 30% had lower-than-optimal levels of ferritin. The results suggest that standard post-surgical micronutrient supplementation protocols should be re-evaluated to avoid long-term adverse effects.

When Wanting Equals Getting

Packard Children's pediatricians Lisa Chamberlain, MD, MPH, and Thomas Robinson, MD, MPH, have shown that television advertisements influence young children's requests for specific types of food and beverages. Now they've confirmed that the ad nagging works. Kids who asked for advertised products consumed more of the highly advertised foods and drinks than did kids who didn't bug their parents. What's more, those who asked for the products more frequently were more likely to get what they wanted. No big surprise to most harried parents, probably, but the results close the circle of television advertising, requesting and consuming, and confirm the adverse effects of advertising on children's health.

When Sunshine is (Not) the Best Medicine

Neonatal jaundice is a potentially dangerous yet common condition that is best managed with medical supervision. However, neonatologist and jaundice expert Vinod Bhutani, MD, found in a study of over 1000 infants that about 20% of parents relied at least in part on sun exposure to treat their child's jaundice -- at the recommendation of nurses and physicians. This despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against exposing infants to direct sun. The findings indicate the need for new outreach strategies to both parents and health professionals regarding the safest and most effective ways to treat neonatal jaundice.

About Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

Ranked as one of the nation's top 10 pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford is a 272-bed hospital devoted to the care of children and expectant mothers. Providing pediatric and obstetric medical and surgical services and associated with the Stanford University School of Medicine, Packard Children's offers patients locally, regionally and nationally the full range of health care programs and services, from preventive and routine care to the diagnosis and treatment of serious illness and injury. For more information, visit

SOURCE Lucile Packard Children's Hospital