Health Buzz: Patients May Suffer From Delusional Infestations

Inside the 2011-12 Best Children's Hospitals rankings; this year's Best Children's Hospitals Honor Roll

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Some Patients Suffer From Delusional Infestations

Sometimes, creepy-crawly sensations are all in the head. People who complain that they're infected with bugs, worms, eggs, or fibers typically have a clean report on medical exams, according to a study published Monday in the Archives of Dermatology. Researchers tested the skin of more than 100 people who believed they were infested with parasites, and in all but one case, physicians came up with nothing—calling the condition "delusional parasitosis." Most of the patients involved in the study had inflamed, itchy skin, and many had ulcers; the researchers say that dermatitis or another condition could be misinterpreted as the feeling of bugs in the skin. "Patients become desperate because they feel their skin is infested with things like insects, bugs and worms," study author Mark Davis, a professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told HealthDay. "They become very preoccupied with it and try to extract it with forceps and knives, and they go to lots of doctors to try to get a diagnosis so they can get an antibiotic to get rid of it. We see many patients whose lives are ruined."

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  • Our Methodology: Inside the 2011-12 Best Children's Hospitals Rankings

    Seriously sick kids need a level of expertise that most hospitals don't have. At the vast majority of hospitals, all but a few inpatients are adults, and children, as medical school instructors drum into into student physicians, aren't small adults. They are more vulnerable to infections because their immune systems aren't fully developed. They respond to medications faster and are more sensitive to too much or too little. Their treatment may be much different than for an adult with the same condition. Moreover, kids are smaller; operating on hearts the size of a walnut and starting IVs in tiny veins are only two of the challenges that pediatric specialists face day in and day out.

    Best Children's Hospitals focuses on medical centers whose young patients come with cancer, cystic fibrosis, defective hearts, and other life-threatening, rare, or demanding conditions. The rankings showcase the top 50 children's centers—20 more than last year—in each of 10 specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology, and urology.

    In all, 76 different hospitals are ranked in at least one specialty. The Honor Roll recognizes 11 hospitals with high scores in at least four specialties. [Read more: Our Methodology: Inside the 2011-12 Best Children's Hospitals Rankings.]

    • Find a Best Children's Hospital
    • 2011-12 Best Children's Hospitals: the Honor Roll
    • 2011-12 Best Children's Hospitals: the Honor Roll

      The average kid will never get sick enough to see the inside of a hospital room. But "average" means nothing if it's your child who is admitted, and less than nothing if she has a problem that calls for the utmost in medical skill. What do you do if your child has a heart defect, or a disorder that interferes with digestion? Out of all of the roughly 5,000 U.S. hospitals, only about 1 in 30 has deep expertise in caring for children with serious problems. For youngsters who need that quality of care, the Best Children's Hospitals rankings showcase the medical centers that every day see kids who have cancer, cystic fibrosis, defective hearts, and countless other life-threatening or rare conditions beyond the capabilities of most hospitals, even those with sizable pediatric departments.

      In this year's Best Children's Hospitals, 76 different hospitals ranked among the top 50 in at least one of 10 specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology, and urology. Eleven were named to the Honor Roll for high scores in four or more specialties.