‘Flying ICUs’: Medical helicopters provide advanced care for rural patients

November 29, 2015

Medical helicopters so well-equipped that one hospital leader calls them “flying intensive care units” are helping people in the rural upper Midwest get emergency medical care that otherwise would be out of reach, the Duluth (Minnesota) News Tribune reported.

“There’s some debate as to the value of having a helicopter system in New York City or Detroit or Chicago,” Mark Monte, M.D., chief of trauma surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, told the newspaper. “But we cover a large expanse of open territory. So to have a helicopter which can go out and reach a great distance and bring a patient back is a great advantage.”

Duluth News Tribune/John Lundy/November 23, 2015

Cases of Pulmonary Hypertension Grow in Children

September 22, 2015

September 20, 2015 By Andrea K. McDaniels of The Baltimore Sun

At 3 months old, Gabrielle John’s daughter would wake up gasping for air and sweating profusely. Baby Stella’s heart rate was also much higher than normal.

“Her little body was working so hard to do anything,” John said.

After several emergency trips to different hospitals, doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital finally diagnosed Stella with pulmonary hypertension, a potentially fatal condition in which blood pressure is abnormally elevated in the arteries of the lungs. These pulmonary arteries narrow, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood through the lungs to collect oxygen and possibly leading to heart failure.

People Who Suffer Depression And Anxiety After A Traumatic Brain Injury May Have Damaged White Matter

June 24, 2015

Jun 16, 2015 12:00 AM By  for Medical Daily/The Grapevine

Over the past few years, it’s become widely known among the scientific community that traumatic brain injuries, or concussions as they’re more often called, can result in lasting physical and mental damage for the sufferer — a reality that only entered the public consciousness with the emergence of lawsuits filed against the NFL, alleging that they had ignored the evidence showing this when it came to their own players.

But while we know that a concussion can leave you with more than dizziness and a temporary headache, it’s been harder to understand exactly why. Now, new research published in the Radiological Society of North America claims to have possibly figured out part of the mystery. The study authors say they were able to detect unique brain patterns among people suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of their concussion when compared to the brains of those concussion sufferers with no reported mental problems — in some cases, these patterns resembled the brains of those whose mental illness wasn’t caused by head trauma.

Source: Alhilali, L, Delic J, Gumus S, et al. Evaluation of White Matter Injury Patterns Underlying Neuropsychiatric Symptoms after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Radiological Society of North America. 2015.

See Medical Daily/The Grapevine for full report.

3 ways providers can mitigate health IT harm

April 1, 2015

Susan D. Hall/Fierce Healthcare 4/01/15

Electronic health records introduce new kinds of risks into an already complex healthcare environment, according to a new Sentinel Event Alert published this week by the Joint Commission.

The alert addresses several socio-technical factors at work with health IT that could lead to sentinel events, including usability issues leading to data-related errors; workflow and communication issues; internal/organizational policies; and hardware/software problems, among others.

To that end, suggested actions should focus on three areas, according to the Joint Commission:

  1. Safety culture: Efforts should include creation of an organization-wide “collective mindfulness” focused on identifying, reporting, analyzing and reducing health IT-related hazardous conditions, close calls or errors; comprehensive systematic analysis of each adverse event causing patient harm to determine whether health IT played a role; and shared involvement and responsibility for the safety of health IT.
  2. Process improvement: It involves development of a proactive, methodical approach that includes assessing patient safety risks; ensuring health IT hardware and software are safe and free from malfunctions and that they’re used in safe and appropriate ways; and using IT to monitor and improve safety.
  3. Leadership: It also calls for enlisting multidisciplinary representation and support; examining workflow processes and procedures for risks and inefficiencies to be resolved before any technology implementation; involving frontline health IT users in system planning and design; and making modifications to the health IT system in a controlled manner.

The alert points organizations to Joint Commission standards on the safe use of health IT.

An evaluation of the graphical displays of lab test results in eight EHRs found they don’t do a good job of creating accurate and clear graphs of patient information, which may adversely affect patient safety, according to a new article in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA).

Meanwhile, an editorial at BMJ Quality and Safety states EHRs have not made as much progress in patient safety as the industry had hoped, and calls for collaborative research in a “reinvigorated” need for improvement.

To learn more:
– read the alert (.pdf)
– find the standards

Why A Clean House May Not Lower Asthma, Allergy Risk

March 26, 2015

Despite the widely accepted assumption that the rise in allergic disorders may be due to improved hygiene, a new study has found no connection between development of allergies and asthma and personal hygiene or home cleanliness. This research appears in the March issues of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Personal cleanliness was found to be inversely related to bacterial compounds on floors and mattresses, but home cleanliness did not reduce microbial markers (only dust amount). Muramic acid exposure was associated with a lower rate of school-age asthma, and mattress endotoxin in the first year of life was inversely linked to atopic sensitization and asthma at school age. However, the development of allergies was not related to home and personal cleanliness despite the associations of dust with cleanliness and allergic health conditions. Bacterial exposure in house dust was a factor in the development of childhood allergic disorders and asthma, but neither personal nor home cleanliness was associated with an increased risk for these disorders.

24-year-old 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retires citing concerns over rampant concussion injuries in football.

March 19, 2015

BostonHerald.com, Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The shocking decision made by 24-year-old San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland to retire this week for health reasons that have nothing to do with any apparent injury and everything to do with the concussive nature of his sport might not become a tidal wave of change for football, but this is not an isolated incident.

Borland is the fifth player 31 years old or younger in the past week to walk away from America’s most popular sport, joining former teammate Patrick Willis, Pittsburgh’s Jason Worilds, Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker and former Pro Bowl cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

Each had their reasons for leaving, and only Borland attributed the decision to the concussion epidemic that has rocked pro football, but Finnegan and Willis left because of ceaseless pain and the consequences they see in playing too long a sport NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith once said guarantees only one thing: injury.

Powered Alcohol Gets Washington OK

March 13, 2015

“No votes from me,” Atlanta legal nurse consultant says.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has approved Palcohol for sale. However, spokesman Tom Hogue said despite approval at the federal level, the product is still subject to state regulations.

Lipsmark, the company which makes Palcohol said it aims to get it on the market by the summer.
But clearing state hurdles could be tough. Alaska has already prohibited it, and six other states have taken regulatory action against it, including Louisiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.

And Senator Charles Schumer from New York on Thursday introduced a bill against powdered alcohol. “I am in total disbelief that our federal government has approved such an obviously dangerous product,” said Schumer, in a statement. “Congress must take matters into its own hands and make powered alcohol illegal.”

Schumer detailed some of the “brazen” statements on Lipsmark’s original website, which have since been removed, where “the company suggested illegally bringing Palcohol to stadium events to avoid overpriced drinks” and “even explained that Palcohol could be snorted to get drunk ‘almost instantly.'”

The company said in a statement that it will “write to legislators to explain why a ban is the wrong action to take.”

Creator Mark Phillips explained in a web video that some “edgy wording” on the company site had given the false impression that the product might be used illegally “and everything went nuts.”
The company had a false start in April of 2014 when it was initially approved. But regulators switched the green light back to red, albeit temporarily, over concerns that it might get abused by kids. But this week, the product was okayed again.

Phillips said that, contrary to popular opinion, it’s not easy for kids to get a hold of it. It will be sold to customers over 21 years of age. He also said that it’s not easy to surreptitiously spike drinks with it, because it takes too long to dissolve to be able to do something like that secretly.

Phillips also said that people should not try to snort it.

“Because of the amount of alcohol in powdered alcohol, snorting it is very painful,” he said Phillips in his video, as he holds a glass of white powder. “It burns a lot. It hurts. Why would someone spend an hour of pain and misery snorting all of this powder to get one shot into their system?”
He insisted that the powder is “perfect for hiking and backpacking.”

“You can drink right out of the bag,” Phillips said, pouring water into a bag of powdered vodka and then shaking it before taking a sip. “Ah! It’s wonderful.”

Jury Awards Woman $30 Million After Throat Catches Fire

February 3, 2015

A 55-year-old woman who can no longer speak or breathe on her own after her endotracheal tube caught fire during surgery to remove polyps from her vocal cords has been awarded $30 million in her malpractice lawsuit, a jury in Seattle ruled last week after a 6-week trial.

The patient, Becky Anderson, who was hospitalized for 3 months after the fire, suedear, nose & throat specialist Donald R. Paugh, MD, FACS, anesthesiologist Linda K. Schatz, MD, and their employers, Wenatchee (Wash.) Valley Medical Center and Wenatchee Anesthesia Associates, as well as Central Washington Hospital, also in Wenatchee, and Medtronic, the manufacturer of the endotracheal tube, saying that the company’s design of the tube was faulty and should have included a “double cuff” that, Ms. Anderson alleged, would have prevented the oxygen in the tube from igniting when exposed to the laser beam.

Ms. Anderson settled for $12 million with the hospital, and a jury awarder her another $17.1 million, comprised of $9.45 million from Dr. Schatz and her employer and $7.65 million from Dr. Paugh and his employer. The jury found that Medtronic wasn’t responsible for the fire and didn’t make the company pay anything.

In the lawsuit, Ms. Anderson blamed her doctors for giving her pure oxygen rather than room air or a lower oxygen concentration.

Jim Burger

Why Texting Could Be Ruining Your Spine

November 23, 2014


Tilting the head forward to use smart devices for reading and texting may be putting as much as 60lbs of excess stress on the cervical spine and leading to early wear, tear, and degeneration. In the journal Surgical Technology International, Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj outlines his model for assessing the weight seen by the spine when the head flexes forward at varying degrees. In a neutral standing position, the force to the cervical spine is 10–12lbs; this increases to 27lbs with a 15 degree head tilt. 40lbs at 30 degrees, 49lbs at 45 degrees, and 60lbs at 60 degrees. Poor posture often occurs when the head is tilted in a forward position with the shoulders in a rounded position; over time, this can contribute to incrementally increased stresses on the cervical spine and a possible need for surgery. Since it is unlikely that people will stop using these devices, Dr. Hansraj recommends greater awareness of proper posture with a neutral spine position while using hand-held technology.

Vitamin B may not reduce the risk of memory loss

November 13, 2014

Published 12 November 2014

Vitamin B may not reduce the risk of memory loss according to a new study (Wednesday 12 November) in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the current study, 2,919 people with an average age of 74 took either a tablet folic acid and of vitamin B12, or a placebo, every day for two years. Tests of memory and thinking skills were performed at the beginning and end of the study. All of the participants had high blood levels of homocysteine – an amino acid – high levels of which are linked to the risk of developing dementia.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society said:

‘There is conflicting evidence for whether vitamin B improves memory and thinking so it’s good to see further clinical trials are being conducted in this area. We know levels of homocysteine, a protein linked to an increased risk of dementia, tend to increase with age. This might be because we are less able to absorb B vitamins from our diet as we get older. However, it is not a quick fix to take supplements.

‘This trial adds to a growing weight of evidence that vitamin B levels do not improve memory and thinking. More trials are needed to determine if there is a benefit of these vitamins for people already with dementia, or for people without high levels of homocysteine, as no one in this trail had dementia or was known to develop it. The best way to reduce the risk of dementia is to take plenty of exercise, eat healthily, properly regulate other health conditions, stop smoking and don’t drink over recommended limits.’

Research reference: Dhonukshe-Rutten, Rosalie A.M. et al, Results of two year vitamin B treatment on, cognitive performance. Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology Wednesday 12 November 2014.


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