Articles Posted in Research Studies

medtest-300x169Medical over-screening and over-testing not only adds hundreds of billions of dollars in unnecessary costs to U.S. health care, it also may be skewing researchers’ understanding of what causes disease and imposing harsh burdens on older Americans.

Stat, an online health and medical news service, has highlighted an intriguing study from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, whose researchers are well-respected for their work on their Atlas Project, which “documents glaring variations in how medical resources are distributed and used in the United States.”

Dartmouth researchers recently examined screening, especially for breast, prostate, and thyroid cancers, and found that over-testing, as Stat reported, may be “misleading doctors and the public about what increases people’s risk of developing cancers,” especially “the types of cancer that matter.”

precise-223x300Although billions of dollars and lots of positive public attention have been lavished on the promise of genetic-based “precision medicine,” this therapeutic approach to treating cancer and other serious diseases may need more scrutiny for basics of quality control.

National Public Radio deserves credit for airing some less-heard experts’ worries about the roles of at least two groups of little-seen and often-ignored medical specialists — pathologists and med techs — and how their common practices may undercut the potential of efforts to target disease treatments to individual patients based on maps of their genes.

Despite its powerful and progress-promising name, precision medicine relies on some old-fashioned, unchanged, and possibly problematic medical techniques, experts told NPR. Blood and tissue samples, which later will be analyzed with costly and supposedly state-of-the-art equipment, still get taken by med techs with limited training. Little attention typically gets paid to how they collect samples and how carefully they get handled before arriving in labs. They may sit on carts for hours, and they may be dragged through different parts of hospitals where temperatures vary widely and can hit extremes.

horsesafety-227x300Get out of the crowds and traffic of the nation’s capital, and into the rolling green of Virginia and Maryland, where thrives the stately and multibillion-dollar business of breeding, raising, showing, and riding horses. That bucolic equestrian life also has a less-known health worry:  Horseback riding, not a contact sport, turns out to be the top adult athletic endeavor that causes traumatic brain injuries.

Researchers in San Francisco scrutinized just under 5,000 cases, recorded between 2003 and 2012 in a federal nationwide data bank of adult sports-related trauma incidents, finding that “equestrian sports were the greatest contributors to sports-related” traumatic brain injuries, they reported in their recent article in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

As ABC-TV News noted of the researchers’ study, they found that “45.2 percent of [traumatic brain injuries] among adults were related to horseback riding, dwarfing the other causes. The second-leading cause of sports-related traumatic brain injury was falls or hits from contact sports like football and soccer, but that accounted for just 20.2 percent.”

spanking-187x300Kids can be a major part of what makes the holidays special. But if a house full of the little darlings hasn’t already driven the grown-ups around them to total distraction, parents, grandparents, and uncles, aunties may want to consider a few ways to ensure youngsters stay healthy and wise in the days ahead, including:

Spare the rod so children don’t get spoiled

If the kids get naughty during the winter break, their parents might find themselves agreeing with a controversial view: Two-thirds of Americans, when asked in surveys, say that misbehaving children younger than 7 need a “good, hard spanking” on occasion when they’re very bad.

yoga2-300x200For seniors who may be rushing to squeeze in a few more pretzel-twisting sessions to ease their stress from a hectic holiday season, this is a gentle reminder: Take it easy with the yoga. It can be good for you, but don’t overdo it or you may hurt yourself.

The Washington Post reported that the number of yoga devotees has climbed to an estimated 36.7 million Americans, many of whom find that stretching and posing in various styles makes them breathe and feel better, as well being more limber, focused, and relaxed. Yoga also has special appeal to older practitioners, 17 percent of them in their 50s and 21 percent 60 and older, according to a study conducted by a yoga publication.

But public health researchers from the University of Alabama Birmingham, after examining electronic data on almost 30,000 yoga-related injuries that led patients to emergency room treatment between 2001 and 2014, reported that:

Boston_University_Medical_Center-300x184Racial and economic disparities not only persist in American health care, they do so to the measurable detriment of millions. Have they become so common and accepted that too many ignore them and their harms?

The Boston Globe, as part of its series on race relations, has reported that “segregation patterns are deeply imbedded in Boston health care. Simply put: If you are black in Boston, you are less likely to get care at several of the city’s elite hospitals than if you are white.” The newspaper explained:

The reasons are complex. More whites live near [renowned academic medical centers like Massachusetts General Hospital — aka MGH]. Certain lower-cost health insurance plans generally don’t pay for care at Harvard Medical School’s high-priced academic medical centers, including Dana-Farber and MGH. And some blacks are uncomfortable at mostly white institutions — or those institutions may not make them feel welcome — a divide compounded by a dearth of black physicians. All of this creates likely disadvantages for blacks, who suffer far worse health overall than whites because of poverty and environmental reasons — a gap city planners recently said is persistent and growing. Some black leaders worry that blacks are handicapped because they don’t have, or don’t believe they have, the same array of health care choices.

massgen-300x140Canadian researchers have come up with at least 2,500  reasons why elite surgeons should reconsider their own wishes and practices to protect patients undergoing hip surgeries from significant post-operative complications. They could do so by curbing even more their dual surgeries, in which they dash between two operating rooms.

A new study has found a 90 percent increase in the risk for surgical complications at one year when doctors repair hip fractures or replace hips in so-called overlapping surgeries.

The Boston Globe, starting in 2015, has raised major issues regarding the safety and effectiveness of simultaneous operations, conducted most often at major academic medical centers (such as Massachusetts General, shown above) and by leading practitioners.

gifts-300x184Looking for a gift with more meaning for a holiday season of higher purpose and lasting impact? Here are some ideas:

srdrugs-300x178When families and friends visit Kansas nursing homes, they may be startled to see how listless and lethargic their elderly loved ones may be, especially if the facility residents suffer from dementia. There’s a sad, simple, and likely reason—the seniors may be drugged up with potent anti-psychotics.

The Kansas City Star deserves credit for providing a powerful reminder that nursing homes, not just in the Heartland but nationwide, persist in over-relying on off-label dosing of their sometimes difficult to handle patients with drugs such as olanzapine (more commonly known by the branded product Zyprexa), aripiprazole (Abilify), risperidone (Risperdal), or quetiapine (Seroquel).

As the newspaper reported:

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