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Medical Devices Send More Than 70,000 Kids To ER Annually

In the first national assessment of its kind, researchers found that more than 70,000 children and teenagers are sent to the emergency room every year due to injuries and complications from medical devices, The Associated Press reports. Contact lenses are the top culprit, according to the new study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Reporter Lindsey Tanner writes:

About one-fourth of the problems were things like infections and eye abrasions in contact lens wearers. These are sometimes preventable and can result from wearing contact lenses too long without cleaning them.

Other common problems found by researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include puncture wounds from hypodermic needles breaking off in the skin while injecting medicine or illegal drugs; infections in young children with ear tubes; and skin tears from pelvic devices used during gynecological exams in teen girls.

Malfunction and misuse are among possible reasons; the researchers are working to determine how and why the injuries occurred and also are examining the prevalence in adults. Those efforts might result in FDA device warnings, depending on what they find, said study co-author Dr. Brock Hefflin.

The most serious problems involved implanted devices such as brain shunts for kids with hydrocephalus (water on the brain); chest catheters for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy at home; and insulin pumps for diabetics. Infections and overdoses are among problems associated with these devices. Only 6 percent of patients overall had to be hospitalized.

This program aired on July 26, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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