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Entries in Blood (13)

Wednesday
Jan252012

Coast Guard Delivers Blood to Sick Cruise Passenger

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -- A seriously ill passenger on a cruise ship headed to Hawaii from San Diego is now safely in a local hospital and doing fine, thanks to the work of the Coast Guard.

The Carnival Spirit was more than 900 miles offshore of Hawaii when the 67-year-old woman fell ill Monday.

“We knew that it was a time-critical issue so we were able to go on the scene basically at first light,” Lt. Robert Braham, a Coast Guard pilot, said Wednesday.

The cruise ship was too far away for a helicopter to evacuate the woman so the Coast Guard launched a C-130 airplane from Honolulu for the three-hour flight to deliver six units of blood and medical supplies.

The supplies were picked up from Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday -- and the C-130 took off four hours later, bound for the ship.

“We grabbed ice from our cooler to keep the blood cold and we just kind of rolled with the punches,” Petty Officer Stewart Peterson said.

With 12 million Americans cruising every year, medical emergencies do happen.

The vessels have doctors, nurses and 24-hour medical care. They also have an exam room and medical equipment including X-rays, defibrillators and portable oxygen, but they are not floating hospitals.

In the last few weeks, the Coast Guard has airlifted a 73-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman from cruise ships for medical reasons.

Even the U.S. Navy has been called. In one case, a passenger with acute appendicitis had to be rushed to land by two Blackhawk Navy helicopters.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec022011

Man Dies From Severe Nosebleed

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The death of a 47-year-old British man who suffered a severe nosebleed has medical examiners perplexed. Robert Ford of Gravesend, Kent, was walking with a friend when the nosebleed started, the U.K. Daily Mail reported Friday.

The bleeding was so severe that Ford went to a local medical center. After the bleeding stopped, doctors told Ford to go home and put ice on his nose. But hours later, he was dead.

An inquest into Ford’s death determined that blood had blocked his airways, causing suffocation. But how the blood got there -- since the nosebleed had apparently stopped -- is a mystery.

“This was certainly an odd case,” Dr. Olaf Biedrzycki, a pathologist who testified at the inquest, told the Daily Mail. “We don’t really know how to explain it. I’ve looked very hard for a source of the blood and could not find it.”

Ford’s father, Michael, called 911 after finding his son on the floor with a pool of blood around his mouth, according to the Daily Mail. There were also dime-sized spots of blood throughout the house.

The coroner ruled the death a result of natural causes.

The lining of the nose contains tiny blood vessels that can rupture when dry or irritated. Cold weather, a scratch, certain chemicals and allergies can trigger bleeding.

“We see an increased frequency of nosebleeds as the weather turns cooler because people start heating their homes,” said Dr. Jason Homme, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic. “When the humidity goes down, the nasal lining is drier and more prone to irritation.”

In children, Homme said, the most common cause of nosebleeds is digital trauma -- nose picking.

Most nosebleeds aren’t serious. But in rare instances, they can signal more serious problems like bleeding disorders.

Nosebleeds resulting from trauma, such as a sports injury or a car accident, should also be examined by a physician.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov302011

Sports Concussions Lessen Blood Reaching Kids' Brains

Comstock/Thinkstock(CINCINNATI) -- Concussions can reduce blood flow to young athletes' brains for a month or more, although their brains also appear more resilient in many ways than those of similarly injured adults, researchers report.

A single sports-related concussion in a young person generally produces minor trauma, which the researchers described as more of a disruption to brain function than the structural and metabolic damage similar concussions inflict on adult brains.

The findings come from a study assessing the effects of concussions on nine boys and three girls, ages 11 to 15, who'd been injured during football, soccer or wrestling.  The study group comprised three girls injured while playing soccer, one boy injured while wrestling and seven boys injured on the football field.  Two football players were knocked unconscious during the incidents; three of the football players had suffered previous concussions more than a year earlier.

When the researchers, led by Dr. Todd Maugans, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, compared injured athletes' brains to brains of healthy youngsters of the same age and sex, MRIs found less blood flowing through the injured athletes' brains in the immediate aftermath of their head injuries.  The brain-injured athletes also had slower reaction times.

However, by the two-week mark, blood flow for 27 percent of the injured athletes returned nearly to the levels of healthy subjects and most of their symptoms had resolved.  Follow-up at a month or more found 64 percent of the injured athletes had normal blood flow again, and everyone's reaction times were normal, according to results published online Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics.

With 36 percent of the group experiencing persistent blood flow reductions a month or more after their injuries, "our results reinforce the concept that a protracted state of physiologic abnormality exists for some young athletes," the researchers wrote.

The authors theorized that diminished blood flow produces some of the symptoms associated with concussions, most of which resolve with time.  They were unable to say what long-term effects might result from lessened blood flow.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov182011

Researcher Turns to Claymation to Promote Drug for Trauma Victims

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Ian Roberts is an epidemiologist, but he's venturing into territory usually reserved for breakfast cereal ads and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  He's created a Claymation cartoon to boost the use of a drug that could keep trauma patients from bleeding to death.

The drug, tranexamic acid, stops bleeding by helping blood clot.  In 2010, Roberts, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, tested it in adult trauma patients who were bleeding excessively.  The tests were part of a large clinical trial called CRASH-2.

As far as these large trials go, tranexamic acid was a success.  In more than 10,000 patients who took it within eight hours of their injury, the drug lowered the risk of death to 14.5 percent and the risk of bleeding to death to less than five percent, compared with 16 percent and 5.7 percent for injured patients who received a placebo.

The drug is inexpensive, costing about $10 per patient.  Roberts estimates that this generic, off-patent drug could save 140,000 lives around the world each year.

Despite the success of the experiment, there was one major problem: almost no one was using tranexamic acid.  In a 2011 analysis of hospitals in the United Kingdom, Roberts found that out of 412 trauma patients who were eligible to receive the life-saving drug, only 12 did.

"I've been doing clinical trials for 20 years and you just don't get better results than what we got for tranexamic acid.  It's cheap, it's safe and it's effective," Roberts said.  "But lots of people don't even know about these results."

Roberts decided to spread the word about the drug.  He recruited his nephew, Hywel Roberts, a 22-year-old animation student at the University of Bristol, to help him create a 40-second stop-motion  Claymation video to describe the drug and encourage viewers to see the evidence of its effectiveness for themselves by reading the results of the CRASH-2 trial.

The video is geared toward doctors, a group that relies heavily on evidence and data to determine how to treat patients.  But Roberts said he tried to use something other than cold, hard facts to catch the eye of medical professionals.

"What makes things move on the Web is emotion," Roberts said.  "It's not a funny problem, but we were looking to inject surprise and a bit of emotion into it.  That's the bit that scientists take out of their research."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct252011

Whistleblower: Tainted Blood at National Institutes of Health Kills Two

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government should investigate the deaths of two cancer patients at the National Institutes of Health who died after they received transfusions of blood that a military blood bank deemed contaminated, a public advocacy group said Tuesday.

Internal investigations by the NIH and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, both in Bethesda, Md., "are not adequate to remedy this serious problem," Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

In an afternoon interview, Wolfe said he urged the two cabinet secretaries to have their agencies determine how infected blood products could have reached the NIH and ultimately killed patients. Without "an immediate external investigation," other patients at the military hospital, the NIH "and possibly military personnel in the field, may be exposed to these entirely preventable risks," his letter said.

The investigations need to begin "quickly, to make sure they've identified exactly where the problem is, and most important, they've remedied it," Wolfe said.

Wolfe, whose work at the NIH decades ago involved platelets, the blood components that transmitted deadly infections to both patients, called it "inconceivable" that they died from tainted blood, which should never have left the blood bank except as medical waste. "The best way of ensuring that infected blood or blood components (never gets used) is to get rid of them."

In a statement released early Tuesday evening, NIH spokesman John Burklow said the NIH was "deeply saddened by the deaths of two patients who were participants in clinical research at the NIH Clinical Center."

Both patients received platelets "from an outside source that were labeled as suitable for transfusion," but developed bacterial sepsis. After the NIH learned the platelets were contaminated, "the patients and their families were informed, and every effort was made to treat their infections. We're doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again."

In addition to requesting immediate investigations, Wolfe said he also asked that inspectors general at both agencies undertake longer-term investigations to make sure the problem doesn't happen again.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

Florida Girl with Sickle Cell Disease Suffers Third Stroke at Age 7

BananaStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Alejandra Melgar is just 7 years old, but because of serious health problems, she can't lead a normal life full of fun, friends and schoolwork.

Alejandra's immunity is severely compromised because she had a bone-marrow transplant in July. The little girl from Homestead, Fla., suffers from severe sickle cell disease, a genetic condition that causes the blood cells to assume a sickle shape. Because of the shape, the cells can block blood flow and ultimately cause organ damage and strokes.

Throughout her short lifetime, Alejandra has suffered through three strokes. The third one, in October, left her with weakness on her right side and an inability to speak.

"When she was four-and-a-half years old and I was pregnant with my son, she had the second stroke," said Lilian Melgar, Alejandra's mother. "We didn't even know she had the first one, because there were no symptoms or consequences. And the third one was much worse than the second."

Her battle with sickle cell disease led to weekly blood transfusions. But after her most recent stroke, doctors told her mother she needed a bone-marrow transplant. Bone-marrow transplants are generally used to treat only the most severe cases of sickle cell anemia.

Alejandra would have to wait months to find a suitable donor. Her 3-year-old brother, Alejandro, couldn't be a donor because he also has sickle cell disease.

Her prayers were finally answered this summer, and Alejandra underwent a transplant in July at Holtz Children's Hospital Miami.

"Alejandra is recovering well. She's doing very well," Melgar said.

But she's still a long way from living a life similar to other children her age. The bone-marrow transplant left her immunity compromised, so she has to wait almost a full year before returning to school, and can't play with friends.

Alejandra receives physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy at home. Right now, the only word she can say is "Mama."

Bone-marrow transplants typically involve destroying all the body's bone marrow and replacing it with donor marrow. This is still one of the mainstays for treating leukemia.

There are often complications with this kind of procedure, because the risk of infection is high and there can be powerful side effects of the chemotherapy or radiation used to destroy the bone marrow. But about four or five years ago, new protocols were developed that don't require the eradication of all a patient's bone marrow.

"The new protocols tried to take advantage of the fact that for sickle cell disease, you don't have to replace all the cells with donor cells," said Dr. Martin Andreansky, director, pediatric blood and marrow transplant program at the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center.

As a result, there is less chemotherapy and fewer toxic side effects.

Trials with this modified procedure have yet to be evaluated, but so far, they seem to work.

But so far, Alejandra is doing well. With luck, Alejandra will no longer have sickle cell disease. She will still carry the trait for it, but these people, said Andreansky, can lead normal lives.

Melgar also has another tough battle to fight. While Alejandro hasn't suffered a stroke, he is starting to have complications related to his sickle cell disease and also needs a transplant.

The Melgars, who are Latino, are having trouble finding a matched donor because there are so few donors of color.

"The problem with minorities is they are severely underrepresented in bone-marrow registries," Andreansky said.

Melgar said she's grateful her daughter found a donor, and she desperately hopes she can find one for her son.

"I want to let people know about this. People, especially kids, need bone marrow," she said. "They can save a lot of lives."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug302011

Clinic Warns Patients of Possible Blood Illness Exposure

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) -- A Madison, Wis., clinic is contacting 2,345 of its diabetic patients to determine whether a nurse may have exposed them to blood-borne illnesses, including HIV and hepatitis B and C, over the past five years.

"An internal review found that a former Dean Clinic employee was inappropriately using these devices during some patient visits between 2006 and 2011," the clinic said in a statement.

In teaching patients how to administer finger sticks and insulin shots to themselves, the nurse changed the needle with each patient but reused the rest of the device, which could put patients at a slight risk of blood transfer from one person to another. The practice devices she used were not even intended to be tried on people, the hospital said.

"That demonstration pen is intended to be used not on people but rather into an inanimate object, such as a pillow or an orange," Dr. Mark Kaufman, Dean's chief medical officer, told ABC affiliate WKOW.

The clinic, which is part of a larger medical system in southern Wisconsin, reported that each patient who received insulin training by this nurse would receive a phone call or letter explaining the wrongdoing. The hospital said it would provide the necessary blood tests, follow-up care and support free of charge.

"Our goal is to ensure that those who may have been affected by the inappropriate use are promptly informed, tested and supported," Dr. Craig Samitt, president and CEO of Dean Clinic, said in the hospital's statement.

Administrators plan to re-educate staff on the proper use of the devices, and to change the way clinical staff is monitored.

"This is not going to herald a huge increase in communicable diseases in this population, but most will suffer more from the anxiety associated with the possibility of exposure after hearing from the clinic," said Dr. Richard Cook, associate professor of anesthesia and critical care at University of Chicago.

"I don't believe this nurse was cognizant of the possibility that the device was a potential source of infection, but we know, of course, that you have to treat these entire device systems as contaminated after they are used," Cook said.

While the risk of infection appears small, Dr. Peter Pronovost, director of John Hopkins' Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, said the hospital should be commended for handling the scandal in a "very forthright and appropriate" manner, and emphasized that safety policies cannot stop at the top.

Clinicians, he said, must understand guidelines at a practical level, and policymakers need to make sure that rules are clear, unambiguous and can be carried out by all.

Device manufacturers, Pronovost said, need to be more of aware of "real world usability" when creating products and enclose specific, practical instructions on how to use the device safely.

"The company could literally put in bold letters, 'Do not use on more than one person,'" Pronovost said. Or in this case, do not use on people at all. "Companies can sometimes figure out ways so that it is physically impossible to make a fatal mistake with their products. They can test where humans can get it wrong. Humans are fallible."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Hurricane Irene Leaves Blood in Short Supply

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the threat of Hurricane Irene shut down business along the U.S. East Coast, it forced the cancellation of more than 60 scheduled blood drives, resulting in a shortfall of more than 2,100 units of blood, according to the American Red Cross.

The storm has not boosted the demand for blood products, but more than 44,000 donations are needed daily across the United States to help accident victims, cancer patients, and people with blood disorders.

"When a disaster like Hurricane Irene strikes, it doesn't diminish the need, even though some donors may find it more difficult to donate," said Stephanie Millian, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross. "That's why we're asking people in unaffected areas to step up."

Despite widespread structural damage and power outages along Irene's multistate path, blood collected and stored before the storm is safe. But the supply of universal donor blood, which is usually stocked at the three-to-five-day inventory level, has dropped below the two-day minimum level.

"O-negative blood is at the lowest level today," said Rob Purvis, vice president of New York Blood Center. "But at this point we need everybody who can donate to donate regardless of what their blood type is."

Six blood collection centers in the Northeast that provide nearly half of the region's blood supply have only enough blood to last two days, according to the America's Blood Centers website. One center has only enough blood for one day.

The blood donation lull is likely to continue as companies struggling to return to normal cancel their scheduled drives, Purvis said.

"The Department of Sanitation had to cancel their drives because of the extra work they had to do," said Purvis. "People are busy doing their jobs. And in terms of priorities, blood donation is really low on the list."

The impending holiday and back to school season will also slow the flow of donated blood, Purvis said.

"We need the help of our communities to replenish the blood supply."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun302011

Exposure to PBDEs in Workplace Can Wind Up in Your Blood

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Despite being taken off the U.S. market years ago, the flame retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) can still be found in several workplaces and, consequently, wind up in the blood of employees, according to a study published Thursday in Environmental Health Perspectives.

PBDEs were commonly used in products ranging from computers to foam padding in furniture until they were withdrawn in 2004 over possible health concerns.  But a lot of PBDE-containing products, including office furniture, are still around today.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health tested 31 office workers and their workspaces in Boston for the presence of PBDEs using wipe tests of office surfaces, employees’ hands and blood tests.  The flame retardant was detected in all office areas, on the hands of 94 percent of the workers and in the blood of 20 percent of the employees. 

Interestingly, employees who reported washing their hands frequently had lower levels of PBDEs on their hands than those who reported infrequent hand washing.   In turn, lower levels of PBDEs on hands was also linked to lower levels of PBDEs in blood. 

The study's authors concluded that exposure to PBDEs in offices is linked to PBDE residues on hands, and that blood contamination is likely due to hand-to-mouth exposure.   They stressed that “good old-fashioned soap and water may be [all that’s] needed to remove the PBDEs.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

'Vampire FaceLift' Uses Blood to Smooth Out Wrinkles

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  There's a new kind of cosmetic procedure available, and it doesn't require injecting any acids, fat or toxins into the body. The main ingredient in this wrinkle-removing procedure is a patient's own blood.

The technology is called Selphyl, and it involves injecting a mixture of blood products into the affected areas. It's also called the "vampire facelift," although calling it a facelift is not accurate. Selphyl is a nonsurgical procedure akin to filler injections, while a face-lift is the surgical repositioning of facial tissues that have become loose over time.

Dr. Andre Berger of the Rejuvalife Vitality Institute in Beverly Hills, Calif., said the procedure is becoming very popular.

"I think this whole recent theme in the entertainment industry ... of using vampire, Dracula themes, has definitely caused a lot of the interest out there," Berger said.

But today's bloodthirsty pop culture is just part of Selphyl's allure. Some of the more well-known cosmetic fillers -- Juvederm, Restylane and Perlane -- are artificial. There are also collagen fillers and fillers that use parts of a person's own body, such as fat fillers and Selphyl.

Selphyl is prepared by drawing a patient's blood, separating the platelets from the red blood cells, blending the platelets with a fibrin mixture and injecting it to the area a patient wants to augment. In about a day, the excess is gone, and several weeks later, the fibrin matrix builds up, yielding the final result.

The process by which Selphyl is injected as a facial filler is FDA approved, and it can be used on other parts of the body with wrinkles or decreased volume.

The use of cosmetic fillers is on the rise, and there's a growing demand for procedures that are noninvasive and nonsurgical. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons predicts that the number of cosmetic procedures performed will exceed 55 million, which is quadruple the number done in 2005. The group also predicts that 97 percent of those procedures will be nonsurgical.

Selphyl costs somewhere in the range of $1,100 to $1,500 per injection, which is much cheaper than a facelift.

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