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Newborn screening testing in Washington

Elizabeth Meade, MD

Elizabeth Meade, MD
Pediatric Hospitalist

For most parents, the newborn period is a time of profound joy, incredible challenges, and LOTS of questions.  As pediatricians, some of the questions we are frequently asked are related to a simple blood test done on all infants in Washington State.  Commonly referred to as the “newborn screen” or “NBS”, “PKU”, or “newborn metabolic testing”, this test checks for several congenital disorders that are rare but can be life-threatening. 

Often parents want to know:

  • What does the test involve? The newborn screen is done by pricking the heel of the infant at around 24 hours of age, then collecting a few drops of blood onto a piece of test paper.  This is dried and then sent to the state lab, where the testing is performed.  Because some of the conditions may take several days to show up, the test is repeated at 7-14 days old (usually by your primary care doctor; it can also be done in the hospital if the baby is still there for any reason).

  • Does it hurt? The needle prick is performed by trained nurses and is done quickly.  It may feel similar to pricking your finger to test blood sugar.  And you can significantly decrease the discomfort of the quick poke by breastfeeding your baby during or immediately after the test!

  • Why do we need this? The diseases we check for are typically rare, but if undiagnosed and untreated can cause a variety of complications, including blindness, poor growth, brain damage, and even death.  The reason that testing every baby is essential is that babies with these conditions can look and act perfectly healthy even while the disease is damaging their bodies, until they get so sick they need to be hospitalized or have permanent damage.  Starting treatment as early as possible can prevent many of the complications.

  • What are you testing for? The ...

Preparing your teen for college and taking care of their health

Kimberlee I. Smith, MD

Kimberlee I. Smith, MD
Pediatric Hospitalist

College is a huge and exciting step in an adolescent’s development. Being prepared can help your teen stay healthy and know where to go when they’re not. Whether your child is staying close to home, or going across the country for school, here are a few tips to add to your college checklist:

Schedule a visit with your primary care physician. (See a list of local Swedish physicians who can see your teen here.)

  • Physicians can make sure your teen is up to date on immunizations that many colleges require. Teens commonly need influenza, Tdap, HPV, and meningococcal vaccines.

  • Ensure that your child has prescriptions (with refills) for all medications they routinely use. Even “as needed” medicines may become needed in college. These medicines should be kept in a locked box in your teen’s room, as many medications can be stolen or used illicitly.

  • Your teen should ...

Per Oral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM) for achalasia

Brian E. Louie, MD

Brian E. Louie, MD
Director of Thoracic Research and Education

P.O.E.M. has come to Seattle at Swedish Medical Center.  No, not the kind that rhymes but one that is elegant in its own way.  Per Oral Endoscopic Myotomy or POEM is relatively new procedure used in the treatment of achalasia, which is a disorder of the esophagus due to degeneration of the nerve network within the walls of the esophagus.  The diseases leaves patients with little propulsive power to push food toward and into the stomach as well as causing the “valve” at the top of the stomach to remain closed.  This makes it difficult for patients to eat or drink.   Patients may need to drink a lot of fluid to get food to pass into the stomach whereas others may feel pain or discomfort after eating and still others may have undigested food come up many hours after eating or when lying down.
 
The treatment for achalasia is ...

Swedish Cancer Institute and community events in August

Nicole Filbert

Nicole Filbert
Health Education Intern, Swedish Cancer Institute

Can you believe the month of August has already arrived? Some may see the end of August as an end to summer, but it doesn’t mean the end of community events. Two particular events taking place toward the end of August are the American Cancer Society Relay for Life—Capitol Hill event and the Northwest Hope and Healing Alki Beach Run 5K. We are happy to announce the Swedish Cancer Institute will be supporting both!

On Saturday, August 23rd ...

Detecting thyroid cancer using ultrasound

Joseph C. Sniezek
The incidence of thyroid cancer is steadily increasing in the U.S. while the reasons for this increase are still unclear.  No environmental exposure or lifestyle trend has been linked to this recent rise but interestingly, some researchers believe that the increasing use of ultrasound in evaluating the neck and thyroid has raised the number of cancers being detected at earlier stages. Regardless of the cause of this recent uptick in thyroid cancer, there is no doubt that ultrasound has fundamentally changed the way in which thyroid lesions and cancers are evaluated and followed.
 
Ultrasound technology has undergone a dramatic improvement in recent years providing clear and precise images without exposing the patient to any radiation.  Thyroid nodules that are suspicious for malignancy can now be identified before they are large enough to be felt in the neck by the patient or health care provider.

 
When a  ...

5th Annual Swedish Multiple Sclerosis Center Art Show

Mallory Higgins

Mallory Higgins
Education Coordinator and Marketing Specialist, Swedish MS Center

With over eighty art work submissions this year, the 5th annual Multiple Sclerosis Center Art Show was, again, a great success. Held at the Seattle Center Armory this past weekend, the exhibit showcased art work created by MS patients, family, friends, and members of the community affected by the disease. This event is held each year to provide community and regional awareness about MS and to provide an opportunity for those affected to express themselves through art. Displayed on white walls and under glass vitrines, artists showcased paintings, collages, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, textiles, poetry, graphics, and photography among other multi-media compositions. As always, the show is free and art work is welcomed from all individuals of all ability levels in the Pacific Northwest. Participants need not be a patient of Swedish, merely influenced or touched by Multiple Sclerosis.

Although a lifelong disease, the event hopes to convey that multiple sclerosis (MS) is not life-ending. Resources are available to support patients and their families. The Swedish MS Center goes beyond health care to assist people living with MS and related neurological conditions and to help them achieve their highest level of well-being.

Following  ...

What you can do about nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Carolyn Anderson, ARNP

Carolyn Anderson, ARNP
Swedish Gastroenterology

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a term used to describe the presence of fat accumulation in the liver. NAFLD affects approximately 20-30% of United States population, and is most commonly diagnosed between 40 – 50 years of age. Recent studies have shown an even distribution of NAFLD between men and women.
 
A healthy liver may contain some fat. However, NAFLD occurs when the liver has trouble breaking down fats, causing excess fat to build-up in the liver. Mild fat accumulation usually does not result in inflammation of the liver. More severe fat accumulation can cause inflammation, and potential progression to cirrhosis (scarring of liver tissue). People who drink too much alcohol can get a condition similar to NAFLD, but NAFLD happens in people who do not drink alcohol or only a little alcohol.
 
We still have much to learn about the specific cause of NAFLD, but it is often associated with:
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