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INTRODUCTION TO PEDIATRIC EMERGENCIES & INJURIES

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Of the 129 million annual emergency department (ED) visits in the United States, over 25 million (20%) are children younger than 18 years. Injuries and poisonings are the leading cause of all pediatric ED visits (30%), with respiratory disorders (27%) also accounting for a significant percentage. Though the vast majority (93%) of children presenting for ED evaluation are discharged home, over 1 million each year require hospital admission from the ED and, sadly, nearly 8000 children die every year in US EDs.

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This chapter begins with the initial approach to the acutely ill pediatric patient, discusses the differentiation and initial management of shock, presents the general approach to the evaluation of pediatric trauma patients, summarizes commonly used emergency drugs, and concludes with the management of a number of common clinical scenarios in pediatric emergency medicine.

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INITIAL APPROACH TO THE ACUTELY ILL INFANT OR CHILD

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A pediatric patient in serious distress may present with a known diagnosis or in cardiorespiratory failure of unknown cause. The initial approach must be simple and consistent in order to rapidly identify physiologic derangements and injuries, prioritize management, and reverse life-threatening conditions immediately. Once stabilized following interventions, the provider must then carefully consider the underlying cause, focusing on those that are treatable or reversible. Specific diagnoses can then be made, and targeted therapy initiated.

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Pediatric cardiac arrest most commonly results from progressive respiratory deterioration or shock as opposed to a primary cardiac etiology. Unrecognized deterioration may lead to bradycardia, agonal breathing, hypotension, and ultimately asystole. Resulting hypoxic and ischemic insult to the brain and other vital organs make neurologic recovery extremely unlikely, even in the doubtful event that the child survives the arrest. When cardiopulmonary arrest does occur, survival is rare and most often associated with significant neurological impairment. Current data reflect a 6% survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, 8% for those who receive prehospital intervention, and 27% survival rate for in-hospital arrest. Children who respond to rapid intervention with ventilation and oxygenation alone or to less than 5 minutes of advanced life support are much more likely to survive neurologically intact. In fact, more than 70% of children with respiratory arrest who receive rapid and effective bystander resuscitation survive with good neurologic outcomes. Therefore, it is essential to recognize the child who is at risk for progressing to cardiopulmonary arrest and to provide aggressive intervention before asystole occurs.

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Please see the references at the end of this section for more information on the specifics of the American Heart Association's Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) guidelines. Please note that the 2010 CPR guidelines emphasize the importance of Compressions first in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), then attention to Airway and Breathing (acronym “C-A-B”). Please do not confuse this acronym with the “ABCs of resuscitation” approach described later as the following discussion details care of the ...

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