Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pediatric Rheumatologist: Finding Answers

We had a visit with Nolan's new doctor today - a pediatrician and a pediatric rheumatologist. Nolan's leg pain can be excruciating at times, occurs during the day and night, and can affect either leg. He often complains of knee pain, though sometimes it is the entire leg that hurts. He conveniently had an attack the other night and I recorded it:

And then, of course, there are all of the other issues. The progressive laryngomalacia with obstructive apnea, the lingering central apnea, the gastroparesis and vomiting attacks, the reflux, the posterior urethral valves, the vision, the progressive hearing loss, and the fatigue.

We saw the new doctor and went over his history. The first thing she did when she heard about the vomiting attacks was to ask us if we had a supply of Zofran on hand. For a child with a Nissen Fundoplication and cyclic vomiting issues, Zofran is a magic bullet to stop the vomiting. No prior doctor has offered it to us before - she had written the script before I could say "no, we don't have that at home." We now have a script for Zofran to keep on hand - if he starts vomiting again, we can give him the Zofran and (hopefully) halt the vomiting attack.

She then did a physical exam. She looked into his ears and saw the 2 tubes in his right ear and 1 tube in his left ear. She looked into his eyes and then started moving him around a bit. She showed me a few "fun tricks" Nolan can do.

His fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, hips, and knees bent ways that joints should not really bend.

While we were aware that he had some hypermobility in his hands, we were told a year ago that it was limited to his small joints. Now all of his joints are affected, and his knees and hips are extremely "loose." They are so loose that they can slip out of joint and dislocate. The awful knee pain Nolan gets is likely due to a dislocation. One way to get the joint back into position is to pull on his leg... this is probably the reason Nolan yells, "Pull my leg! Pull my leg OFF!" when he has leg issues. He has had one incident where his leg locked into a bent position and he was in agony - this was due to a dislocation of his knee. The rest of his pain comes from a type of arthritis caused by hypermobility.

Now, of course, we have to ask the question of why Nolan has extremely loose joints, hearing loss, digestive problems, fatigue, progressive laryngomalacia, etc.

Typically, a neuromuscular disorder or connective tissue disorder is the underlying cause.

The first thing the doctor is going to do is to request a copy of Nolan's brain MRI from when he was 2 years old. He fits the profile of a child with Chiari Malformation. While the MRI supposedly had "ruled out" this problem, they only scanned his brain. Apparently, the spine should also be surveyed to absolutely rule out Chiari. We may have to repeat an MRI - but the rheumatologist is going to review the CD's of Nolan's MRIs to see how much of the brain stem and cervical spine they managed to scan.

There are several other possibilities, and lab work has been ordered to rule out autoimmune conditions. A CPK has been ordered to rule out muscular dystrophies, and another test has been ordered for a gene called MTHFR (which can cause a host of various chronic diseases). This round of lab work may not give us an answer, but it will rule out several things so we can focus on other options. Of course, we may not get "The Answer," but many things make more sense now.

Nolan will have difficulty walking long distance and will become fatigued more easily than other children. His body requires more energy just to keep his joints in alignment and functioning than a typical child. The digestive system and laryngomalacia make more sense, too - those systems also rely on muscle tone and/or proper collagen formation to function properly. Nolan's severe astigmatism also fits into this picture - the eyes require proper connective tissue formation to keep their proper shape. The hearing loss doesn't quite fit into the picture yet, though several connective tissue disorders (and neuromuscular disorders) are associated with hearing loss.

As a side note, Matthew probably has a milder form of the same disorder. Children with these disorders often suffer from constipation (as Matt does) because the colon cannot keep its proper shape and doesn't "rebound" like a typical person's colon. He also has the reflux and late-onset laryngomalacia.

In any case, we will have the lab work done for Nolan and will see the specialist again next week. Even if we don't get a name, at least we will have tried and we know the general "category" of disorder that Nolan has.


Herding Grasshoppers said...

Wow, Leah, that's a lot to absorb, but it makes sense. Praying for your peace, and for a clear picture of how to move forward,


dlefler said...

We know what he has now, and it does make sense. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which doesn't typically come with hearing loss - but Nolan has to be a little rarer than most, right? :)