Improvise isn’t a word parents want to hear from their kid’s doctor. Yet pediatric specialists too often have to jury-rig care because many of the medical devices needed to treat sick children were built for adults.
Part of the problem is size.
Doctors fixed Alice de Pooter’s faltering heartbeat by wedging an adult pacemaker into a baby’s body. But the device’s large battery bulged so badly under her rib cage that she struggled to sit upright until her first birthday.
It’s also an engineering problem. Children aren’t just miniature adults; their bodies are growing and changing. When adult devices haven’t been formally studied in children, using them in youngsters can raise safety questions.
“It affects patient care. We need to find a resolution,” Dr. Matthew Oetgen, chief of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine at Children’s National Health System, said at a recent grants competition that the Washington hospital hosted to help spur development of innovative pediatric devices.
There’s little financial incentive to create and test pint-sized devices because children overall are healthier than adults and make up a fraction of the treatment market.
But families are starting to demand solutions.