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Monday
Jun252012

Alex Trebek's First Heart Attack Put Him at Risk, Doctors Say

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek's heart attack on Sunday was a mild one, just like his previous heart attack in 2007.

The 71-year-old longtime game show host was reportedly in good spirits and undergoing tests at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to a statement from Sony Pictures Television sent to the Hollywood Reporter Sunday. In those tests, cardiologists said Trebek's doctors were likely trying to determine how much damage his heart had sustained, and whether there were any severe blockages in his blood vessels.

Dr. Cam Patterson, physician-in-chief at the University of North Carolina Heart and Vascular Center, said Trebek's doctors were likely studying whether Trebek was at risk for another heart attack and how much damage his heart endured.

"I'm sure they're having conversations with him about whether there will be a need for stents or surgery," he said.

If Trebek has a blockage, he'll likely need a stent to open his blood vessels. But even then, it's possible that he could leave the hospital within a day and recover within a week or two.

"If there's little damage to the heart muscle and his blood vessels look good, he should get back to normal very quickly," Patterson said.

Trebek's representatives said they expect Trebek to have recovered enough to tape the new season of Jeopardy! at the end of July.

Recurrent heart attacks are common for people who have a history of heart problems, even for those who appear healthy and take preventive measures, such as maintaining a healthy diet and exercising, and taking aspirin.

"The biggest risk factor for a heart attack is having had one already," said Dr. Christopher Cannon, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston.

As to whether Trebek can expect another heart attack, doctors said there's no good way to predict who will have a heart attack and who won't. Even those with no risk factors at all can have a heart attack. Trebek and his doctors will do what they can, but certain factors may be out of their control.

"My expectation is he has received excellent health care and has healthy habits, but has been dealt a bad hand by genetics that has predisposed him to heart damage," Patterson said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun252012

Should Kids Be Prescribed ADHD Medications Sooner?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who start taking medications as early as fourth grade may be more likely to score better academically than those who start taking medication in middle school, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by problems focusing and erratic behavior.  Since 2007, 5.4 million children ages 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, and 66 percent reported taking medication to treat their symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  A majority of children are diagnosed with ADHD by age 7.

Researchers looked at data of nearly 12,000 Icelandic children born between 1994 and 1996, each of whom began taking medication for ADHD sometime between fourth and seventh grades.  By the time the children reached seventh grade, those who had begun taking medications within the first year of fourth grade showed only a 0.3 percent drop in their math score, compared to a 9 percent drop among children who started medication around sixth or seventh grade.

"Performance of kids with ADHD tends to decline over time, especially if medication is delayed," said Helga Zoega, an epidemiologist at the Institute for Translational Epidemiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and lead author of the study.  "Starting medication earlier may halt this decline."

The girls among the group only showed improvement in math after starting medication.  The boys showed improvement in both math and language arts.

A majority of kids are diagnosed with ADHD by age 7, Zoega said.

Besides medication, treatments for ADHD include behavioral interventions, education plans and parental training.  The interventions may be the first line of treatment before medication, or may be used in combination with medication.

The study data did not show whether the children received other forms of treatment besides medication, and whether these additional treatments may have influenced their performance.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun252012

Jellyfish Stings: Urine and Other Common Remedies May Not Work

Photos.com/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- People who live in jellyfish territory may want to reconsider using traditional remedies to soothe the pain of stings, according to research published in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Based on a review of 19 previous studies, researchers found that using hot water and a topical anesthetic are more effective than using urine, vinegar, baking soda and meat tenderizer.

These other treatments, they said, may work with species found outside of North America.

"Some of the remedies promoted by word of mouth and online, such as vinegar, actually make the pain worse with certain species of jellyfish," lead author Dr. Nicholas Ward of the University of California San Diego said in a press release.  "Current evidence suggests hot water and topical lidocaine, which is available at local pharmacies, may be more universally beneficial in treating pain from a jellyfish sting.  Topical lidocaine, a local anesthetic, may also inactivate the stinging cells of the jellyfish, preventing further envenomation."

If hot water and lidocaine are not available, Ward and his colleagues recommend removing the stingers -- called nematocysts -- and washing the area with salt water.

The American Heart Association and American Red Cross recommend the use of vinegar or baking soda followed by the use of heat, but the authors said that based on findings from other studies, vinegar may actually make pain worse and cause the discharge of more venom.

Other proposed treatments, such as deionized water, meat tenderizer and urine didn't seem to soothe the pain, they said.

It has also been recommended that one apply pressure bandages after a jellyfish sting, but studies have not found evidence for or against this remedy.

Although hot water and lidocaine may be more effective than some other treatments, it's not a perfect solution.

"The perfect treatment would be readily available, cheap, capable of inactivating venom and applicable across multiple species of jellyfish," said Ward.  "Until that remedy is discovered, hot water or topical lidocaine may be the best bet for a jellyfish sting in North America or Hawaii."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun252012

One in Nine Food Allergy Emergencies Are No Accident

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- In one out of every nine cases in which a child is given food that sets off an allergic reaction, it is not an accidental exposure.  Parents are giving their children known food triggers, a new study suggests.

The authors of the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, said they are not completely sure why it's happening.

"In terms of purposeful exposures, those percentages haven't been reported before," said Dr. David Fleischer, assistant professor at National Jewish Health in Denver, the lead author of the study.  "Maybe parents were testing their children to see if they had outgrown their allergy.  There's going to be a follow-up study, going back to families and asking exactly why caretakers were giving these foods on purpose."

Another finding was that at least 70 percent of the 500 infants followed in the study had at least one allergic reaction over the study period, and more than 50 percent of the infants had more than one reaction -- despite the fact that parents or caregivers had already been informed of the child's allergy.

Taken together, the findings suggest that even after a food allergy diagnosis is made, children with allergies are still at risk.

With nearly 8 percent of children in the United States affected by food allergies, researchers across the United States are trying to better understand how to counsel parents in dealing with the diagnosis.

The new study is the first of its kind to look at the frequency and circumstances of food reactions after families were counseled on avoidance.  The researchers wanted to identify areas for improvement in parent education, as well as the specific reasons why children with known allergies were developing reactions.

Unlike most studies, which use surveys of allergic reactions, this research followed infants prospectively, or over the course of years.

"There really aren't a number of large studies that have reported reactions in a prospective way," Fleischer said.  "There also aren't a lot of studies looking at this very young age population."

What the researchers found was that most food exposures leading to allergic reactions were accidental, with milk, egg, and peanut being the most common culprits.  The majority of reactions were attributed to a lack of vigilance -- forgetting to check ingredients, for example -- but over half of these incidents occurred when food was being provided by caretakers other than parents.

Dr. Scott Sicherer, professor at Mount Sinai Hospital and co-author of the study said the study may serve as a wake-up call for some who care for food-allergic children.

"The bottom line is that you have to maintain a high level of vigilance," he said.  "That applies to the parents, but also to other people taking care of the child: grandparents, siblings, babysitters, teachers.  Basically everyone who is around the child needs to know about the allergy and understand what to do to keep the child safe."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun252012

Lab-Grown 'Custom' Organs May Be Future of Medicine

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- What if dying patients waiting for an organ transplant could receive a custom, lab-grown replacement rather than waiting for a donor organ?

To some, this may sound like science fiction -- and in many ways, it still is.  But the advances in the field of regenerative medicine that made headlines last week suggest such lab-grown organs may become a reality in the future.

One of these advances was Swedish scientists' creation of a custom vein that has carried blood from a little girl's intestines to her liver for a year and counting.  In another, a group in Japan successfully implanted lab-grown livers made from human cells into mice -- organs that metabolized drugs the way they would in a human.

And these developments may be just the tip of the iceberg.  From skin to blood vessels to solid organs, work is underway to offer more options for patients with faulty or damaged body parts.

Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., was part of the first group in the world to successfully implant a lab-grown organ into the human body.  Atala's interest in the field began when he was training to become a urologist and saw numerous children who had undergone bladder replacement surgery.  Many of them were experiencing leaks, and some even suffered ruptures of their new bladders.

"That's when I really thought, 'Why not try to grow these children new bladders from their own cells?'" Atala said.

Atala collected a small number of cells -- about the size of half a postage stamp -- from the original, inadequate bladders of children with spinal cord birth defects.  Each child's own cells were multiplied in the lab and then placed on a biodegradable scaffolding.  In seven weeks, the cells had grown to fill in the scaffold, creating a new bladder.  The procedure was first performed in 1998, and by 2006 they had seen long-term success of the organs.

"I still hear from some of them occasionally," Atala said.  "They are still walking around with their engineered bladders, and they are happy with them."

Since this first foray into growing organs, Atala has been one of the many doctors on the forefront of what some say could one day be a new paradigm in medicine -- growing spare parts from a patient's own cells.

Atala currently heads up more than 300 researchers in the Wake Forest University lab who are working on growing more than 30 different organs and body tissues.

In one trial for the U.S. Armed Forces, his team is collecting healthy skin cells from injured soldiers, processing them, and then spraying them onto battle wounds as a tailored treatment for healing.  For deeper wounds, they are in the process of developing an ink jet printer that scans a wound and creates a custom map of the defect.

"After the scan, the printer can go back and print multiple layers of cells right over the wound," Atala said.

The idea of using a patient's own cells rather than relying on those of a donor is important because it eliminates the need to find a "match."  For any transplant procedure there is a concern that tissues from a donor will be rejected by a recipient's body.

Even though doctors carefully analyze specimens under a microscope to find the most compatible individuals, and even despite the powerful drugs used to prevent the recipient's immune system from attacking the new body part, the risk of rejection still causes doctors to hold their breath in the days following a transplant.

Custom-made organs from a patient's own tissues would solve this problem, obviating the need for strong immune-suppressing medications that come with significant side effects.

The other potential benefit lies in availability.  Growing a replacement tissue or organ in the lab eliminates the dependence on waiting for a donor to die.  These parts cannot be grown overnight, but with people currently waiting months to years for donor organs, there might be a point at which the amount of time taken to grow a replacement is shorter than the wait for a donated one.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun242012

Mother of the World’s First 'Test-Tube Baby,’ Lesley Brown Dies at 64

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(BRISTOL, England) -- The mother of the world's first "test-tube baby," born on July 25, 1978, died on June 6 in Bristol, England, The New York Times reports.

Lesley Brown apparently died of complications from a gallbladder infection.

In vitro fertilization was developed by Dr. Robert G. Edwards and Dr. Patrick Steptoe as a stepping stone for couples to treat infertility in the 70's. Although Dr. Edwards and Dr. Steptoe had tried the in vitro treatment on about 60 couples, Louise Brown became the first successful “test-tube baby,” the paper says.

Lesley Brown went on to have another daughter, Natalie, also conceived with in vitro fertilization.  

In 2007, Mr. Brown died at the age of 64.  Mrs. Brown is survived by her three grandchildren and two daughters, according to the Times.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun242012

North Carolina Senate Denies Funds for Sterilization Victims

iStockphoto/ThinkStock(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- The North Carolina Senate rejected a plan to compensate victims of a mass sterilization plan that targeted mostly poor minorities for decades in the 20th century.

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans refused to support the measure put forth by the House to set aside $10 million in the state budget for compensation, which would have given victims $50,000 each. The move would have made North Carolina the first state to compensate eugenics victims.

"I'm sorry that it happened," Sen. Don East told the Raleigh-based News and Observer. "I just don't think money fixes it."

From 1929 to 1974, an estimated 7,600 people were sterilized by consent, coercion or without their knowledge as a part of the North Carolina Eugenics Board program, according to the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. The office estimates that up to 1,800 victims are still living, and 146 have been verified so far.

Charmaine Fuller Cooper, the executive director, told the News and Observer that the foundation would shut down by the end of the month because state funding is ending.

North Carolina ran one of the country's most active eugenics programs, targeting people who were poor and undereducated, and those with physical or mental disabilities. The North Carolina Eugenics Board, a five-person panel, made its decisions in the name of social welfare.

Elaine Riddick, 58, was one of the victims. Pregnant after she was raped at age 14, Riddick was sterilized without her knowledge when she went to a North Carolina hospital to give birth to her son in 1968. Years later, she learned what had happened to her.

Riddick's attorney, Willie Gary, said Riddick was "hurt" and "in tears" after hearing the state senate's decision Wednesday. Riddick has said she would file a class action lawsuit seeking compensation from the state.

"She's suffered for so long, and now this is just pouring salt on a wound that has been there for years and years and years," Gary told ABC News.

Riddick told her story to ABC News last year.

Deemed "promiscuous" and "feebleminded" by a social worker at the hospital, Riddick, who came from a black family on welfare, was recommended to the state for sterilization. Riddick's illiterate grandmother was told that they were doing a "procedure" that was necessary to help the young girl; she signed the consent papers with an X. The state authorized and paid for the procedure, and without her consent or even her knowledge, Riddick was sterilized shortly after she gave birth.

"They didn't have permission from me because I was too young, and my grandmother didn't understand what was going on," Riddick told ABCNews.com. "They said I was feebleminded, they said I would never be able to do anything for myself. I was a little bitty kid and they cut me open like a hog."

At one time or another in the 20th century, more than half of the states in the U.S. had programs that allowed for the sterilization of those the government deemed unfit to procreate.

When most programs began in the early 1930s, this usually meant those in institutions for mental illness or mental retardation, but over the decades criminals, the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those with epilepsy and ultimately the rural poor on welfare would fall under the umbrella of "unfit to procreate."

In all, 65,000 Americans were sterilized before the last state program was shut down in the early 1980s.

Though detailed, often meticulous records of these sterilizations survive in state archives; America's experience with selective sterilization has for the most part been a buried chapter in the nation's history.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun232012

Health Study: Outdoor Active Teenagers are Happier than Non Active Teens

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK)-- A study published in the July issue of Pediatrics from 2004 to 2009 in Australia has found that teens who participate in more moderate-to-vigorous outdoor activities are more healthier and sociable than their peers who watch television and surf the net instead, according to HealthDay News.

The research done at the University of Sydney, found that youths who spent about 2 and a half hours playing sports or participating in high intensive activities had the highest percentage of health. In addition, according to the researcher’s findings, youth spent around 3.3 hours a day playing video games, watching television, and 2.1 hours in physical activity.

Approximately 1,216 teens were asked on the questionnaire how much time they spent on outdoor exercise compared to sedentary activities. In addition,  the teens were asked how much time they spent on computers, television and reading. Students were questioned beginning at age 12 and again at age 17. The findings suggest that the teens who were more active had higher social functioning skills as opposed to teens who did not exercise.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun222012

Dogs May Prevent Babies from Getting Asthma 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- If you've ever worried about having your two-legged baby around your four-legged baby this may ease your fears.  A new study from the American Society for Microbiology reveals that house dust from homes with dogs may help in protecting children from developing asthma.

Mice exposed to dust from homes with dogs were better off than those who were not according to researchers.

Dr. Tamiko Ralston from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles says, “It’s more helpful if you’re exposed to these things early in life so if you’re born into a house that has dogs it would be more helpful than bringing a dog home to your 5 year old.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun222012

Man with Kidney Disease Finds Perfect Match in New Bride

Jonathan Woodlief(DALLAS) -- Caitlin knew she was in love, but giving her heart to Jonathan was not an easy choice. Because Jonathan needed more than a heart; he needed a kidney, and his prospects of finding one were close to zero.

He faced a bleak future. But in the end, Caitlin turned out to be the perfect match not only for his heart but also for his health. And today they are heading into a future far brighter than the one they imagined on their wedding day last October.

Jonathan and Caitlin Woodlief met three years ago at seminary school in Dallas. Soon after they began dating, his health began to deteriorate.

"Dating was really difficult," Caitlin says. "You're trying to figure out how much to put your heart on the line, like any dating situation. But now I have to decide whether or not to go with him to chemo treatments. It's scary and intimidating dealing with a big disease."

The disease was lupus, and it was the second time around for Jonathan, which made the stakes much higher.

When he was 18, Jonathan had his first kidney transplant. The donor was his mother. It is very rare for lupus to return in the donated kidney, but just as Jonathan and Caitlin were falling in love, that's what happened.

It is far more difficult to find a matching donor for a patient who has already had one transplant because the body has built up new antibodies.

Fewer than one in 100 people could provide Jonathan a kidney his body would accept. Doctors told him he would probably spend the next 15 years or more on dialysis, waiting for a match, his health deteriorating all the time.

"It was a rough year for us," Jonathan says, "and a tough decision."

Jonathan went from "super healthy" to increasingly being in the hospital, sometimes for long stretches. He was in the hospital when he first met Caitlin's parents.

"That was humbling," he says, "me wanting to be a man who could provide and love her, and being insecure about my health."

"There were days that really take your breath away," Caitlin says, "when you think about the weight of the situation ... just how sick he was."

"One thing helped," Caitlin says, as she wrestled with whether or not to tie her life to a very sick man. "He would have done the same for me."

A month after the wedding, Jonathan went on the transplant list, which meant the search for a donor could begin.

Caitlin went with some of their friends to be tested. One by one they called to report they were not a match.

Then, at the end of January, the news no one expected: Caitlin herself was a match.

"It's like hitting the lottery," said transplant surgeon Dr. David Cronin. "Practically speaking," he said, patients like Jonathan have almost no chance of finding a matching donor.

After more testing, and still more testing to be sure, the newlyweds went into surgery on Tuesday at the transplant center at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

In the prep room together, Jonathan, the old hand in hospitals, reassured his wife, who had never been under anesthetic.

"I was pretty nervous," she admits.

Caitlin went into the operating room first, and an hour later they called for Jonathan.

Caitlin is back at home already. Jonathan joins her there today and they can begin planning for the healthy future they didn't think they would get.

"Swimming and jumping and running and playing basketball," is first on the list, Caitlin says. Jonathan is a big basketball player.

"Further down the road, we'd love to start a family," Caitlin says. "That was on the back burner until all this came together."

But Jonathan and Caitlin, now graduates of that Christian seminary school, are not just thinking of themselves.

"A lot of our story has been shaped by suffering," Jonathan says, "so we want to work with other people who are suffering."

Jonathan is thinking of ministry, maybe overseas. He spent a year studying in China and his good health makes a return there possible. Caitlin trained as a music therapist and wants to incorporate that into her career.

"We've had a big detour here," Jonathan says. Now, thanks to his perfect match, they are back on track.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio