Health Buzz: Pediatricians' Medical Errors and Other Health News

A blood test for Down syndrome, pets that pose risks to kids, and diabetes info that men need to know.

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Medical Errors and Your Child

Many pediatricians polled in a recent survey say they're more likely to admit a medical error to the family of a child only if the error is obvious, according to a study published this month in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. About 200 pediatricians in St. Louis and Seattle were surveyed about whether and how they would disclose medical errors to kids or their families. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said they would definitely disclose errors. About 26 percent indicated they would apologize for errors, HealthDay reports.

"The findings very much fell in line with what we had seen in other specialties that have been surveyed, internal medicine physicians and surgeons specifically," David Loren, author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, told HealthDay. "[But] our conversations carry more fear and weight because of the people we're disclosing to. They're stewards of children as well, and potentially harming children in our care weighs on the soul heavier."

In June, Adam Voiland of U.S. News explained that medical errors could become costly for California hospitals. A study published last year found that admitting to a medical mistake is often a physician's best strategy. Last week, Avery Comarow reported that hospitals treating Medicare patients must now pay for avoidable complications.

Blood Test Could Help Identify Down Syndrome Pregnancies

A blood test could offer a less risky alternative to amniocentesis in determining whether a fetus has Down syndrome, Reuters reports. Amniocentesis requires that a needle be inserted into the uterus, while the new test can be done using blood drawn from the mother. Down syndrome—the result of a baby having three copies of chromosome 21 rather than the normal two—causes mental retardation and other symptoms. The blood test also can identify other chromosomal conditions, including Edward syndrome and Patau syndrome, both of which can be deadly. A study that involved 18 women found that the blood test was accurate for nine women carrying babies with Down syndrome and three others whose fetuses had other chromosomal disorders, according to Reuters. A report on the study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reported last year that all pregnant women, regardless of age, should get early testing for the risk of Down syndrome in their fetus.

"Easy" Pets May Pose Health Risks to Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently warned parents that many "easy" pets—the ones that don't shed, don't need to be walked, and don't throw up on the sofa—pose serious health threats to young children. In the past few years, more and more families have turned to nontraditional pets, largely because they're considered easier to care for than cats and dogs. But they bring with them substantial health risks, particularly for children younger than 5.

U.S. News's Nancy Shute lists eight pets that pose health risks to kids.

Getting Information to Men With Diabetes

A recent survey conducted by the American Diabetes Association found that 30 percent of men with diabetes who responded claimed to know "a lot" about their condition, and only 25 percent reported eating nutritious meals. Sixty percent felt that more information could help them better manage the disease. And 65 percent said having more information would mean they would have useful conversations with caregivers about the condition. As a result, the organization put together a website for men with diabetes and is working to get the word out about how to manage the condition and the health problems it causes.

Adam Voiland names six facts that every man with diabetes should know. In August, Michelle Andrews of U.S. News listed seven steps newly diagnosed diabetics should take to improve their health, and Voiland explored whether your drinking water could give you diabetes.

—January W. Payne