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Use of Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies in a Pediatric Neurology Clinic

  • Isaac Soo (a1), Jean K. Mah (a2), Karen Barlow (a2), Lorie Hamiwka (a2) and Elaine Wirrell (a2)...

Abstract:

Background:

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasingly used in adults and children. Studies on CAM in neurological disorders have focused on the adult population and its use among pediatric neurology patients has not been well characterized.

Objectives:

The purpose of this study was: 1) To characterize the prevalence of CAM in pediatric neurology patients; 2) To determine the perceived effectiveness of CAM in these children; 3) To compare the cost of CAM with conventional therapies; and 4) To describe caregiver or patient-related variables associated with the use of CAM.

Methods:

This was a cross-sectional survey of patients and families attending the Alberta Children's Hospital neurology clinic between February and May 2004. Patients were considered eligible if they were between two and 18 years of age and had a known history of neurological disorders. Caregivers completed several self-administered questionnaires regarding their socio-demographic profile, their child's neurological illness, and their experience with CAM. Caregivers also rated their child's quality of life using the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory.

Results:

One hundred and five of 228 (46%) families completed the survey. The mean age of the neurology patients was 9.8 ± 4.5 years. Forty-six (44%) out of 105 patients received one or more types of CAM, with the most common types being chiropractic manipulations (15%), dietary therapy (12%), herbal remedies (8%), homeopathy (8%), and prayer/faith healing (8%). Caregivers' sociodemographic variables or pediatric health-related quality of life were not significantly associated with the use of CAM. Fifty-nine percent of CAM users reported benefits, and only one patient experienced side effects. There was no significant difference in the total median cost of CAM compared to conventional therapies ($31.70 vs. $50.00 per month). Caregivers' personal experience or success stories from friends and media were common reasons for trying CAM.

Conclusions:

The use of CAM was common among pediatric neurology patients. Over half of the families reported benefits with CAM, and side effects were perceived to be few. Physicians should initiate discussion on CAM during clinic visits so that the families and patients can make informed decisions about using CAM. Further studies should address the specific role of CAM in children with neurological disorders, and to determine the potential interactions between CAM and conventional therapies in these patients.

RÉSUMÉ: Contexte:

La médecine complémentaire et alternative (MCA) est de plus en plus utilisée chez les adultes et chez les enfants. Il existe des études sur l’utilisation de la MCA pour traiter les maladies neurologiques chez l’adulte, mais son utilisation chez l’enfant a été peu étudiée. Objectifs: Les buts de cette étude étaient : 1) de caractériser la prévalence de l’utilisation de la MCA chez les patients pédiatriques atteints de maladies neurologiques; 2) d’en déterminer l’efficacité ressentie par les patients; 3) d’en comparer le coût à celui des traitements conventionnels; 4) de décrire les caractéristiques du soignant et du patient qui ont recours à la MCA.

Méthodes:

Il s’agit d’une étude transversale de patients et de familles suivis à la clinique de neurologie de l’Alberta Children’s Hospital entre février et mai 2004. Pour être éligibles à l’étude, les patients devaient être âgés de 2 à 18 ans et être atteints d’une maladie neurologique. Ils devaient compléter eux-mêmes plusieurs questionnaires concernant leur profil sociodémographique, la maladie neurologique de leur enfant et leur expérience de la MCA. Les soignants devaient également évaluer la qualité de vie de leur enfant au moyen de l’Inventaire systémique de qualité de vie, version pédiatrique.

Résultats:

Cent cinq des 228 familles (46%) ont retourné le questionnaire complété. L’âge moyen des patients était de 9,8 ± 4,5 ans. Quarante-six (44%) des 105 patients avaient reçu un ou plusieurs types de MCA, les plus fréquents étant des manipulations chiropractiques (15%), un traitement diététique (12%), des herbes médicinales (8%), un traitement homéopathique et des pratiques de guérison par la prière et par la foi (8%). Les variables sociodémographiques des soignants ou la qualité de vie liée à la santé chez l’enfant n’étaient pas associées de façon significative à l’utilisation de la MCA. Cinquante-neuf pour cent des utilisateurs de la MCA ont rapporté qu’ils en avaient tiré des bénéfices et seulement un patient a eu des effets secondaires. Il n’existait pas de différence significative quant au coût médian total de la MCA par rapport aux traitements conventionnels ($31,70 contre $50,00 par mois). Les raisons principales motivant l’utilisation de la MCA étaient l’expérience personnelle des soignants, des témoignages d’amis ou des publications dans les médias faisant état du succès de ces thérapies.

Conclusions:

L’utilisation de la MCA était fréquente chez les patients pédiatriques atteints de maladies neurologiques. Plus de la moitié des familles ont rapporté des bénéfices de l’utilisation de la MCA. Ces thérapies étaient perçues comme ayant peu d’effets secondaires. Les médecins devraient aborder ce sujet pendant les visites afin que les familles et les patients puissent prendre des décisions éclairées. Le rôle spécifique de la MCA chez les enfants atteints de maladies neurologiques ainsi que les interactions possibles entre la MCA et les thérapies conventionnelles chez ces patients devraient faire l’objet d’études plus poussées.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Alberta Children’s Hospital, 1820 Richmond Road SW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2T 5C7

References

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