This article describes the use of complementary and alternative medicines in an outpatient pediatric neurology clinic, and assesses family attitudes toward the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines versus prescription medications. Complementary and alternative medicine is an important element of the modern health care landscape. There is limited information about whether, and to what extent, families perceive its utility in childhood neurological disorders.
Surveys were distributed to 500 consecutive patients at a child neurology clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Questions pertained to the child's diagnoses, use of complementary and alternative medicines, and the specific complementary and alternative medicine modalities that were used. Opinions were also gathered on the perceived efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines and prescription medications. Data were compared using χ2 or Fisher exact tests as indicated.
A total of 484 surveys were returned, of which 327 were usable. Only 17.4% admitted to use of complementary and alternative medicine to treat neurological problems. However, in follow-up questioning, actually 41.6% of patients recognized that they were using one or more types of complementary and alternative medicines. Disorders associated with a statistically significant increased prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use were headache (50.8% with headache used complementary and alternative medicine versus 35.7% without headache; P = 0.008, Fisher exact test), chronic fatigue (63.2% vs 38.8%; P = 0.005, Fisher exact test), and sleep disorders (77.1% vs 37.3%; P < 0.0001, Fisher exact test).
A large proportion of pediatric neurology patients in our clinic are also using complementary and alternative medicine. Only 38.5% of these recognize themselves as using complementary and alternative medicine, underlining the need to inquire in-depth about its use. Patients who are less satisfied with their prescription medications are more likely to use complementary and alternative medicine, perhaps reflecting the less tractable nature of their disorders.
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Published online: January 11, 2016
Accepted: November 1, 2015
Received: June 26, 2015
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