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Tech evolution key to changing the face of paediatric care

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New advances in paediatrics are improving the survival outcomes of young patients with life-threatening conditions.

Paediatrics is one of the most rapidly changing fields in medicine, and paediatricians are continually innovating and adapting to the latest trends in order to provide the best possible care for children. This involves using new technology, adapting to changing lifestyles, biomedical equipment, and exploring new treatment methods.  

The use of technology based equipment to diagnose and treat children such as Artificial Intelligence research in genomics, innovations in ultrasound and echocardiography, electronic health records (EHR), and mobile-based apps for diagnosis are on the rise. Likewise, telemedicine has proven to be one of the fastest solutions during pandemic due to swift communication between patients and doctors.  

Ongoing technological advances in paediatrics are improving survival outcomes among babies born with life-threatening conditions. Also, there is increasing use of minimally invasive surgery to treat health conditions in children. Surgical procedures like brain shunts, trachea, gut, heart reconstructions, and organ transplants are changing palliative care in neonates.  

Let us have a look at some of the recent developments brought in by technology in paediatrics:  

Smart pill  

A new generation of tech-enabled pills involves a prescription medication that’s embedded with a minute sensor that sends a signal to a wearable patch. The patch then forwards the information, for example, to the patient’s computer, allowing them to monitor prescription compliance. The technology also allows paediatricians to monitor patients’ heart rates, sleep levels, and physical activity.  

3D Printed hearts  

3D printing is becoming the next frontier of organ-transplant medicine. Although 3D printing is still far from creating a full replacement for a human heart, this technology has significantly improved the outcomes of heart surgeries for children. Using MRI and CT scan images, child physicians create models and enlarge them to study a patient’s heart defects more closely.  

Surgeons then have the opportunity to practice on these printed models, which leads to more precision during surgery and fewer complications for children afterward.  

Gene therapy for leukemia  

Even though leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children and teens, its exact causes still remain unresolved by researchers. However, at least some types have been linked to gene mutations.  

In gene therapy, patients would have their body’s own disease-fighting T cells fortified and multiplied in a lab, then get the cells transferred back to their bodies to help them fight the cancer. Physicians and researchers deem this advance as a new class of cancer therapy that might eventually be adapted to treat all types of cancers.  

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)  

ECMO is a technique which helps the child to get extended cardiac and respiratory support when their body is naturally unable to do so under any circumstances, be it due to an illness or during surgery. To simplify, ECMO machines are similar to heart-lung bypass machines used during open-heart surgery.  

Stem cell transplant  

A stem cell transplant (also called bone marrow transplant) is the infusion of healthy stem cells into the body to stimulate new bone marrow growth. Stem cells are vital to a person’s ability to fight infection. Stem cell transplants are performed on children whose stem cells have been damaged by disease or invasive treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.  

Epilepsy treatment  

The concept of epilepsy surgery dates back to the olden times, though our understanding of epilepsy and surgical techniques have evolved significantly since then. While most patients with epilepsy achieve good seizure control with medication, some do not.  

Traditionally, in the past, surgeons temporarily removed a large part of the skull bone to locate the seizure onset zone, placed grid and strip electrodes on the surface of the brain and placed depth electrodes into the brain. Whereas, with shift in paediatric care, stereoelectroencephalography (sEEG) records electrical signals within the brain by using electrodes that are implanted using a minimally invasive procedure. These electrodes help locate the seizure source. Once these sources are detected, a newer less invasive surgery is carried out called Ablation where brain tissue is removed by either heat (thermal ablation) or soundwaves (radiofrequency).  

 

These recent developments and technological evolution are en route to change the face of paediatric care. The advances will help paediatricians in efficient diagnosis or the root cause analysis of a disease while improving the care of children and their families. Undoubtedly, it is crucial for the doctors to keep themselves updated on the latest innovations and trends to ensure that they are providing the most efficacious as well as high-quality treatment to the child patients.  

To help medical specialists working with children stay in sync with the latest buzz in the paediatric world, a two-day long Paediatrics Conference will take place at Arab Health on February 1 to 2, 2023 at Dubai World Trade Centre. The theme of this year’s edition ‘Paediatrics in contemporary times: Addressing emerging epidemics of mental health and obesity’, will provide health practitioners an excellent opportunity to explore and seek solutions to address issues on paediatric allergies, gastroenterology, genetic disease and obesity.  

Notable experts from around the world will share their expertise and present the most up-to-date information and diagnosis and treatment of these issues, giving delegates access to the best scientific content and an opportunity to network with the leaders in paediatrics. 

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Libza Mannan is an independent writer, development communications professional, and columnist at Omnia Health.

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