Premature infants born at less than 3.3 pounds have an increased risk of 25 percent for showing early signs of autistic characteristics, according to a Children's Hospital Boston study.
"Early screening for autistic features might be warranted in this population," says researcher Catherine Limperopoulos, PhD, who cautions against drawing conclusions. "But by no means are we suggesting all premature babies are at risk for autism."
Does surgery cure mysterious fevers?
Children's otolaryngologist Greg Licameli, MD's, search for an answer to the cause of cyclical fevers—the arrival of which can often be predicted to the day—was personal: His 19-month-old daughter, Claire, suffered from them, despite unsuccessful attempts to find their cause or treat them.
Licameli read reports of European children with cyclical fevers who got better after a tonsillectomy, so he asked a colleague to remove Claire's tonsils and adenoids—and the fevers immediately stopped.
He has now operated on 60 patients with this condition, most of whom have had their fevers disappear. The cause of the fevers and why surgery cures them remain mysteries, but, as Licameli tells parents, "I don't know why this works, but it has in almost every single kid."
CF declining in New England
A study at Children's and the New England Newborn Screening Program shows a decline in the number of babies born with cystic fibrosis (CF), a fatal genetic disorder. Comparing the periods between 1999 to 2002 (before prenatal CF screening came into wide practice) and 2003 to 2006, researchers found that the number of live-born infants with CF dropped by about 50 percent. They hypothesize that increases in pre-conception and prenatal screening to identify CF carriers might have led to the drop.
iPods safe for kids with pacemakers
A widely reported 2007 study concluded that portable MP3 players like iPods could make cardiac pacemakers malfunction, but Charles Berul, MD, director of the Pacemaker Service, and colleagues were dubious. So they placed each of four digital music players directly over the pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators of 51 patients and found that none of the players interfered with device functioning. Berul and colleagues were reassured by their findings, but suggest the precaution of keeping players at least six inches away from pacemakers.
Your baby's brain on drugs (and alcohol and tobacco)
A recent study suggests that prenatal exposure to cocaine, alcohol or tobacco may affect children's brains well into adolescence. These children showed reductions in total brain volume and gray matter in the brain's cerebral cortex, a structure important in learning, memory, language and other cognitive functions. Researchers also found that the more substances a child was exposed to in utero, the greater their reduction in brain volume.
Of concern was the finding that prenatal tobacco exposure alone had an effect on brain volume that fell just short of statistical significance. "About 20 percent of women who smoke continue to do so during pregnancy," neurologist Michael Rivkin, MD, notes.
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