Small Device Saves Big Pain

One of the greatest fears about going to the doctor is getting stuck with a needle. But a new device is easing that pain for some kids.

Nellcor's Microstream Carbon Dioxide Monitor is a simple solution for kids who have a severe asthma attack or bad pneumonia. It uses prongs placed just under the nostrils to give doctors information that used to involve drawing blood.

Dr. Jeffrey Colvin uses the device at Stormont-Vail in Topeka. He said the blood work would be particular painful for children. He said you might need to stick a child with needles anywhere from every hour to a couple times a day to get readings, in an area with lots of nerve endings. Plus, he says, a child's smaller blood vessels can mean several tries before getting a good blood draw.

Specifically, the monitor measures how much carbon dioxide a child is breathing out. Dr. Colvin says breathing in oxygen is only half the equation - when a child is really sick, whether they'll fail or need to go to ICU is more dependent on how they're breathing out than how they're breathing in.

Forty is a normal number. Dr. Colvin says too much carbon dioxide in the blood can make you tired, which makes you want to stop breathing.

The CO2 monitor provides instant information for doctors to know if a child is in trouble. It tells not just carbon dioxide, but also oxygen, respiratory rate and pulse. Because of that, Dr. Colvin says, it's also proving useful when a child is being sedated.

It's a simple breakthrough easing kids fears. Dr. Colvin says, for a child in severe respiratory distress, the last thing they need is more stress when trying to catch their breath.

Dr. Colvin brought the CO2 monitor to Stormont through his role as the facility's Pediatric Hospitalist. The role means he works in the hospital full-time, rather than splitting time between a private clinic and the hospital. He says that allows the hospital to take care of sicker patients and helps the parents feel better because he is always available to answer questions and care for their child. Dr. Colvin says it's also a benefit for other pediatricians, because they don't have to feel caught between their obligations to patients at their clinic and those at the hospital.


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