Choosing Wisely

Many of you will have heard of the “Choosing Wisely” campaign, an attempt to improve decision making, by clarifying efficacy and risks of common procedures or therapies. Many specialty societies have come up with lists of the Top-5 questionable practices that should be reconsidered. The AAP has just published a list of 5 neonatal practices that they say should be avoided. It is interesting that some of the other societies have made very clear recommendations to not do certain things (“Don’t do….” a particular test, for example). The AAP list instead states to “Avoid Routine…” for each one of the 5 practices. I think for a couple of their practices they could have been more forthright.

  1. Avoid routine use of antireflux medications for treatment of symptomatic GERD or for treatment of apnea and desaturation in preterm infants.

This is one where that prior comment applies. I think this should have been stated “Do not use antireflux medications in the newborn”. The reason being that there is no such animal. There is no medication that has been shown to reduce reflux. There is no way clinically to diagnose abnormal reflux. There is no effect of antireflux medication on apnea or desaturation. All the medications in use are toxic.

Now if by antireflux medications, they include anti-gastric acidity medications (and when you look at the supplemental materials it seems that they do) then I guess you could temper those comments a little. It is possible that sometimes acid-caused reflux disease is an issue, and the agents are effective at reducing gastric acid production, even in the newborn. Whether they improve any acid-related disease findings is less certain, most of the rare small RCTs have shown no clinical benefit. They are also associated with more infections, more NEC and increased mortality. So maybe in a baby after diaphragmatic hernia repair, or after Oesphageal Atresia repair they could be indicated, but it would be great to have some actual data.

  1. Avoid routine continuation of antibiotic therapy beyond 48 hours for initially asymptomatic infants without evidence of bacterial infection.

Again I think this could be a stronger statement, given the 2 provisos that the babies are initially asymptomatic and that they have no evidence of bacterial infection. In other words it is for babies with risk factors for infection, but who develop no clinical signs. In those babies you could appropriately say “Stop antibiotics at 36 hours”.

  1. Avoid routine use of pneumograms for predischarge assessment of ongoing and/or prolonged apnea of prematurity.

I think this is appropriately stated, there may be indications for selective predischarge pneumograms, for diagnostic rather than screening purposes, so “Avoid routine” is about right.

  1. Avoid routine daily chest radiographs without an indication for intubated infants.

I agree with this, I didn’t know it was a common practice in the NICU. Some babies are intubated for months, that would be an awful lot of radiation.

  1. Avoid routine screening term-equivalent or discharge brain MRIs in preterm infants.

Again I agree with this, as many of you will already know! The justification given however, is that there is no evidence that they improve long term outcome. While that is true, I don’t think that is why they are being done, not many people think a few minutes in a magnet will make the babies better. The data show a poor positive predictive value of abnormal findings for long term outcomes, which make them of questionable value.

About Keith Barrington

I am a neonatologist and clinical researcher at Sainte Justine University Health Center in Montréal
This entry was posted in Neonatal Research. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Choosing Wisely

  1. Pingback: Anti-reflux medications in preterm infants, there is no such animal. | Neonatal Research

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