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Research Indicates Prevalent Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Amongst Chronically-ill Children

May 05, 2002

Seattle: Research at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center revealed that 63 percent of pediatric patients with renal or rheumatologic disease used some form of complementary and alternative medicine.

Seattle: Research at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center revealed that 63 percent of pediatric patients with renal or rheumatologic disease used some form of complementary and alternative medicine. Children’s Hospital physicians M. Khurram Faizan, MD, pediatric nephrology fellow and primary author of the study; Bruder Stapleton, MD, pediatrician-in-chief; Ruth McDonald, MD, medical director of solid organ transplantation; David Sherry, MD, chief of rheumatology; and Cornelius Van Niel, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine, conducted the study.

Complementary and alternative medicine encompasses both holistic and preventive healing methods, such as massage, herbal remedies and vitamins, exercise, diet, acupuncture, prayer, relaxation and meditation. The research, entitled “Prevalence Of Complementary And Alternative Medicine Use In Pediatric Patients Using Immunosuppressive Therapy,” studied the prevalence, patient characteristics, and associated beliefs of complementary and alternative medicine use in pediatric nephrology and rheumatology patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy for control of their primary disease.

The cross-sectional, clinic-based study was compiled from a self-administered questionnaire completed by 89 patients in the pediatric nephrology and rheumatology clinics at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center. The mean patient age was 14; 73 percent were Caucasian. The most common primary diagnoses were renal transplantation (48 percent), nephrotic syndrome (18 percent) and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (9 percent).

This study concluded that alternative medicine use among children with renal and rheumatologic disease requiring immunosuppressive therapy is common, with 63 percent of patients using some form of alternative medical therapy. The most frequently reported modalities were exercise (35 percent), herbal remedies (24 percent), and prayer (24 percent).

The study also pointed to the need for greater awareness within the patient care provider community about potential side effects and drug interactions of alternative therapies, especially herbs. Additionally, the study concluded that further research is needed to better understand patient/caregiver preferences and beliefs, and to study the effect of alternative medicines on health, well-being, and disease management.

“This study is significant because complementary therapies are being utilized by this complex and often fragile group of patients and may be influencing outcomes, either favorably or unfavorably,” said Dr. Stapleton. “The more we learn about the value of complementary therapies, the more patients may benefit, with the hope that toxicities from standard immunosuppressive therapies may be lessened.”

The research was chosen for presentation at the Pediatric Academic Societies Conference on May 4-7, 2002, in Baltimore, Md. The Pediatric Academic Societies Conference ( focuses on the state of children’s health through 2,300 presentations to nearly 4,000 leaders in pediatric research, advocacy, and patient care from the United States and around the world.

This year, abstracts were submitted for consideration from 48 nations. Representing pediatricians who practice, teach, and conduct research at academic health centers, the Pediatric Academic Societies member organizations are The American Pediatric Society, The Society for Pediatric Research, and the Ambulatory Pediatric Society. 

About Seattle Children's Hospital

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children’s has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit

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