The toddler has been in the hospital for about a week and was released on Tuesday. The preschooler was admitted in April and remains in hospital, according to a hospital spokesman.
“It’s been a crisis since February and has been changing and trying to screen and find something else to work with,” Dr. Mark Corkins, a pediatric gastroenterologist who treats patients at the hospital, said in a phone interview with CNN.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it has become easier to import certain infant formula in an effort to address a nationwide shortage of formula.
Two children hospitalized in Memphis have short bowel syndrome, which prevents them from absorbing normal-sized proteins. This condition is rare, affecting about 25 out of every 100,000 babies. They rely on formulas made up of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. These broken down proteins do not need to be digested; they can simply be absorbed through the gut.
Formula maker Abbott makes about 80 percent of the specialty formula they need under the brand name EleCare. When its Sturgis, Michigan, manufacturing plant closed in February, patients on the formula were replaced by patients made by a smaller supplier, and those stocks have now also been depleted, Corkins said.
He said they had tried other types of ground protein-based formulas, but it didn’t work. Kids can’t stand them and get dehydrated.
“In the hospital, we give them IV fluids, and the other thing we give them is IV nutrition. It’s not ideal,” he said. Doctors want to feed these children orally so they can use the gut. The more they use the gut, the more it swells.
Corkins said the two children could have stayed at home if it weren’t for their special nutritional needs, but they were hospitalized so they could get food.