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Entries in medical (7)

Sunday
Jun022013

General Anesthesia Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia in Elderly

Pixland/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study shows that senior citizens who go under general anesthesia during medical procedures may experience an increased rate of dementia.

General anesthesia is used to make a patient unconscious and unable to feel pain or discomfort during medical procedures. Often, anesthesia is delivered through intravenous drugs or inhaled gases.

Elderly patients frequently develop a conditioned known as post-operative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) after major surgeries. Experts believe that POCD may be a precursor to lasting dementia.

In a study, researchers in France followed over 7,000 patients who did not suffer from dementia and analyzed data taken from those patients over a span of ten years.

Over 22 percent of those who had a medical history including general anesthesia developed dementia. That rate is 35 percent higher than in patients without a history of general anesthesia, 18.7 percent of whom developed dementia.

It is possible that other health conditions contributed to a higher rate of dementia, as senior citizens who undergo procedures requiring general anesthesia may be less healthy than those who did not require those procedures.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug302012

Medical Opt-Out Rates for Vaccines Vary by State

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Rates of medical exemptions from vaccination requirements are higher in states where exemptions are easier to get, potentially compromising immunity and posing a threat to other children, according to public health experts at Emory University.

In addition, states with stringent standards for non-medical exemptions found a higher rate of medical exemptions. In other words, parents may be seeking medical exemptions when it is harder to receive non-medical exemptions.

The researchers evaluated medical exemptions from kindergarten entry requirements for every state between 2004 and 2010, and came up with a total of 87,631 medical exemptions nationwide. Standards allowing medical exemptions from school immunization requirements were inconsistent from state to state.

The study was published Thursday in the Journal of Infectious Disease.

The investigators concluded that medical exemptions should be monitored and evaluated continually to ensure they are used appropriately.

"The appropriate use of medical exemptions is important to maintaining sufficient herd immunity," Saad Omer, assistant professor of global health, epidemiology, and pediatrics at Emory University Schools of Public Health and Medicine, writes in the study. Herd immunity refers to the resistance to the spread of infectious disease in a group because susceptible members are few. It explains how non-vaccinated people are protected when a significant portion of a population is vaccinated. "More importantly, they add to existing pockets of susceptibility. It is known that immunizations exemptors cluster geographically, increasing the possibility for local areas of increased disease incidence."

With herd immunity, infections are unlikely to transfer from person to person because most people are immune. This then disrupts the chain of transmission that could infect a person who did not receive a vaccine or did not respond to it.

People with compromised immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, cancer patients, or people with other immune disorders, are typically protected by herd immunity. Also protected are those who, for one reason or another, can't, for medical reasons, get vaccinated.

"Children with valid medical exemption need to be protected ... by insuring high coverage rates among the rest of the population," write Daniel Salmon and Dr. Neal Halsey at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in an editorial that accompanies the article.

However, a certain threshold is required to establish herd immunity -- and the exemptions to school immunizations may compromise the ability of a community to attain this level of vaccination.

Most doctors urge parents to weigh very seriously their decision to opt for non-medical exemptions, especially in light of the agreement among physicians about their safety and effectiveness. The widely discredited theory of an association between vaccinations and autism, though debunked, persists in the culture today.

While experts recognize the autonomy of parents to make decisions regarding their children's healthcare, doctors believe that counseling may alleviate parents' concerns.

"I think all eligible children should receive recommended vaccines, but I also recognize the right of parents to make this choice -- to the extent that it does not cause harm in others," said Dr. Gregory Poland, professor of medicine, infectious disease, molecular pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at Mayo Clinic and Foundation. "For this reason, I think it is imperative that anyone seeking an exemption for any reason should be required to have adequate education and counseling about vaccines and have an opportunity to have questions answered and misperceptions debunked."

"Many children have been terribly harmed and families and communities scarred by the oft times capricious and uninformed rejection of vaccines based on false information."

Experts agree that physicians should pay strict attention to the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec122011

A Text a Day to Keep the Doctor Away

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Using wireless technology to improve health outcomes was the focus for the annual mHealth summit, which took place last week at National Harbor in Washington, D.C. With more than 12,000 health-related apps in the iTunes store, it can be hard to know which ones to download, and which ones to pass on. Not to mention there are many other ways to use your phone -- smart or not -- to help you in your quest for good health.

As health management moves from files and folders, to electronic medical records and into the memories of smart phones, here are some of the (free) smart phone apps and mobile services that can help you manage your health.

  • iTriage: With more than 11,000 ratings and an average rating of four stars (4.5 on newest version), it is easy to see why iTriage is a one-stop health app. Created by two ER doctors in 2008, this app can tell you not only what’s wrong with you but where to go for treatment. The application uses a national listing of ERs and medical providers to provide the closest location, as well as ER wait times. And in the unlikely event that you don’t have your phone, you can log in to the app from your computer, too.
  • Text4baby: It may be hard to believe, but not everyone has a smart phone (even if smart phones accounted for 50 percent of all phone sales last year). That is why Text4Baby uses free text messaging to educate and inform moms to be and new moms about how to give babies the “best possible start in life.”
  • What is really cool about this service is that it times the messages to your due date or your baby’s birthday. All you need to do is to text the word “Baby” (or “Bebe” for Spanish) to the number 511411 from your cell phone.
  • Smokefree TXT: This is another app that uses free 24/7 text messages to help smokers quit the habit. Although the program was designed for teenagers (according to Pew, 72 percent  of all teens are text-messagers), anyone can use it. The service sends encouraging messages about quitting. You can also text back with keywords like “crave” or “slip” to let the app know what kind of day you are having.
  • Also, good news for the smart phone users, an app called QuitStart is currently in development and is set to launch in early January.
  • LoseIt: Losing weight and keeping tabs on your caloric intake can be not only hard but discouraging. Enter LoseIt, whose website touts that “86 percent of their users have lost weight.” LoseIt lets you track what you have had to eat each day, as well as how many calories the food counted toward your “daily calorie budget.” Not only can you track your progress from your smart phone but also your computer.
  • Rxmind Me: Ever had trouble remembering which pill to take when? With so many medications out there, all with different dosages and time intervals, it’s no wonder many people are not in compliance with their doctors advice. Well, now with apps like Rxmind Me that faulty memory is no excuse. Simply download the free app, insert your medications, dosages and other important information and Rxmind Me will alert you when it is time to pop that pill. You can even add pills you take randomly so you can check on drug interactions with your physician or pharmacist.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar282011

Doctors' Conflicting Interests Can Cost Money and Lives and Hinder Medical Discoveries

Comstock/Thinkstock By Stefan P. Kruszewski, M.D.

(NEW YORK) -- In recent months, the print media have once again outed another group of physicians who benefit from undisclosed financial renumeration from pharmaceutical companies, accompanied by serious conflicts of interest. One headline from The New York Times News Service read "California Docs Paid to Promote Drugs," while other news outlets carried similar stories.

The fact that doctors take money from pharmaceutical companies happens to be old news. But this time around, the docs in question come from Stanford University. Previous news stories reported that doctors receiving pharmaceutical funding hailed from Harvard, the University of Miami, the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

More than a few of these doctors are psychiatrists who have received tax-supported, public National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Mental Health funding for clinical research, have participated in U.S. Food and Drug Administation advisory panels or have appeared on, or on behalf of, various not-for-profit psychiatric advocacy boards -- some of which are heavily supported by the manufacturers of psychiatric medications.

For example, authors of a psychiatric study might recommend a specific antidepressant therapy but fail to reveal that they are being paid by multiple antidepressant manufacturers to speak, advocate and do research for the companies that sell the drugs. Academic journals, heavily supported by advertising money, are biased and complicit in the conflict of interest fiasco.

Drug promotion and clinical decision-making that are brokered on the backs of dollar bills have a greater chance of causing serious adverse outcomes, including illnesses and death. If a physician embellishes the effectiveness of a drug or minimizes its risk, that directly hurts patients.

Physicians who are heavily supported by pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers are not forming independent, unbiased decisions. Instead, their brains have been lined with gifts, perks and money, which influences their rose-colored opinions.

Conflicted clinical research -- often done especially by and for a particular psychiatric pharmaceutical manufacturer -- whose design and analysis are biased and whose summary and conclusions are misleadingly positive, fracture the backbone of scientific research.

The legacy of fraudulent research lingers for years before it is recognized and repudiated. That effort impedes real progress, wastes time, money and human resources that could be focused on finding real cures to help all of us. And that's not good for anybody.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Feds Recovered $4 Billion in Gov't Medical Fraud in 2010 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Last year was the biggest ever for shutting down efforts to scam federal health care programs. Prosecutors recovered a record-setting $4 billion from hundreds of crooks, big and small.

“The subjects of our investigations include traditional fraudsters, health care providers, corporate executives, hospital systems and administrators and members of organized crime,” said FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins at a news conference in Washington Monday.

Federal officials also announced new rules to make it harder for would-be criminals to defraud the government in the future.

“The days when you could just hang out a shingle and start billing the government are over,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Among the new rules, which are part of the health care law the House voted last week to repeal, is one that allows Medicare to stop all payments to a provider the moment a credible complaint about fraud has been received. This may terrify executives at some big corporations that sell billions of dollars' worth of drugs, devices and services to the federal government. Major companies like Novartis, AstraZeneca and Allergan, for example, were the subjects of successful fraud investigations last year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep212010

Shot of Aspirin: Potential New Treatment for Migraines?

Most headache sufferers have their own tricks for relief, but for more than 29 million migraine sufferers, the agony can be much more difficult to escape. New research suggests aspirin taken intravenously -- a migraine treatment already widely used in Europe -- may be an effective treatment for migraine patients in the U.S. Researchers reviewed records of 168 patients hospitalized in London for chronic daily headaches and were given an average of five doses of intravenous aspirin. Two thirds of the patients reported a decrease in pain following the treatment, according to the study published Monday in the American Academy of Neurology. Aspirin pills are effective in treating acute forms of migraines. A more intense delivery of aspirin through IV injection may provide relief for a more intense type of headache, said Dr. Peter Goadsby, co-author of the study and director of the headache clinic at University of California, San Francisco.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio. Image Courtesy: ABC News

Tuesday
Sep212010

Global Cost of Alzheimer's Care Expected to Rise

The global cost of Alzheimer's disease and dementia care is projected to soar in the upcoming years, according to a report released Tuesday by Alzheimer's Disease International, a non-profit international federation of Alzheimer's organizations. Such costs currently account for one percent of the global gross domestic product, or $604 billion and some estimates say the care-related costs will double by 2030.  The report also states that countries including France, Australia and England have adopted national Alzheimer’s disease plans, while the United States has yet to do so.  An estimated 35.6 million people suffer from dementia worldwide.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio. Image courtesy: ABC News







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