Children's Health: Pediatric Surgeons, Common Surgeries and Appendicitis
In this Fox 8 House Call series, Obinna Adibe, MD, MHS, a pediatric surgeon with Cone Health Pediatric Specialists and a member of Cone Health Medical Group, discusses children's health, including:
Why Your Child Needs a Pediatric Surgeon
In the past, society often thought of children as just “little adults” and used similar treatment methods on children as they did grown-ups. As we’ve progressed, we’ve learned that children actually need very different care than adults. Children have a different physiology, anatomy and clinical considerations, which is why when it comes to surgery, pediatric surgeons have a better understanding of how to best treat your child.
A pediatric surgeon is a board-certified general surgeon with a special certification they receive after an additional two-year pediatric surgery residency. After seven years of surgical training, they are qualified to perform surgery on all ages, with special training that focuses on the different needs of children. Pediatric surgeons are the ones who treat congenital anomalies, issues that babies are born with, and other issues that happen throughout childhood.
Whenever possible, pediatric surgeons use minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopic surgery. The main benefits of laparoscopy include less pain, faster recovery and improved cosmetic outcomes. Most babies only stay one night after a procedure and any scars are gone by age 4.
Common Surgeries for Newborns
Pediatric surgeons treat a variety of surgical issues that occur in children, from newborns until age 17. One of the most common problems that surgeons treat is inguinal hernias, when a section of intestine protrudes through an opening in the groin called the inguinal canal. A hernia will appear as a bulge or swelling in the groin or scrotum. This type of hernia is more common in infants that are premature but can happen to anyone. To repair it, your pediatric surgeon will use a minimally invasive, laparoscopic technique to push the intestine back in and close the canal. Once treated, it is rare for an inguinal hernia to reoccur.
A less common condition, but one that can occur in newborns, is pyloric stenosis. The pylorus is the lower part of the stomach that passes food to the small intestine. When the pylorus narrows and prevents food from passing through, infants develop pyloric stenosis. This condition can cause infants to vomit forcefully, eventually causing the baby to lose weight. If your child experiences these symptoms, it’s important to follow up with your pediatrician; they can direct you to treatment if necessary. To treat pyloric stenosis, pediatric surgeons make an incision in the pyloris laparoscopically to allow food to pass through.
Often when an infant is having trouble eating or receiving adequate nutrition by mouth, your physician will recommend they have a gastrostomy tube put in place. This tube is inserted through the abdomen and delivers nutrition directly to the stomach. It is a relatively short and simple procedure for pediatric surgeons to do.
How to Tell When Your Child’s Appendix Is Acting Up
The appendix is a small organ on the right side of the body. When something causes it to get infected, the condition is called appendicitis. This is a serious condition that can occur in children, and understanding what signs to look for and when to seek help is key. For parents, it’s important to understand appendicitis is not caused by a child’s diet or activity level. There is no way to prevent appendicitis from occurring, but you can help catch it early and find treatment quickly.
Appendicitis occurs when an obstruction, often a piece of hard stool, blocks the opening of the appendix and it becomes swollen, infected and inflamed. Common symptoms of appendicitis include:
- Worse than normal belly pain, normally on the right side. Children may complain that it even hurts when they walk.
- Lack of appetite.
If your child experiences these symptoms, contact his or her pediatrician. If the pediatrician suspects your child has appendicitis, or if you are unable to be seen by the pediatrician soon and you think it’s appendicitis, your child should be taken to the children’s emergency room for immediate treatment.
The treatment for appendicitis is an appendectomy, or the surgical removal of the appendix. Pediatric surgeons at Cone Health use minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery that removes it through small incisions in the belly. In many cases, only one incision at the belly button is needed to remove it and the child can go home after one night in the hospital.
At Cone Health, the team of pediatric surgeons, pediatricians and other related health care providers are dedicated to caring for children in the community.