Review Category : Health

Toddlers’ Brains Grow Faster than Other Body Parts

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Kids grow up so fast, the old saying goes, but that’s not really the case if you compare them to other mammals. However, one part of the body that seems to be on overdrive in the growth department is the brain, according to Northwestern University researchers.

They’ve concluded the reason why the body takes its time reaching its maximum height — usually age 18 for males, 16 for female — is because the brain requires more energy to grow.

For instance, a five-year-old’s glucose intake is twice that of an adult while during the growth peak, it means the brain will actually burn through two-thirds of the body’s calories when at rest.

As study co-author Christopher Kuzawa explains, “Our bodies can’t afford to grow faster during the toddler and childhood years because a huge quantity of resources is required to fuel the developing human brain.”

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Surgeons Get ‘Dress Rehearsals’ with 3D-Printed Body Parts

Courtesy Boston Children’s Hospital(BOSTON) — Though doctors spend decades perfecting their crafts, they don’t exactly get dress rehearsals when it comes to performing complex surgeries on one-of-a-kind patients.

Enter the 3D printer.

At Boston Children’s Hospital, doctors perform practice surgeries with replicas of their patients’ body parts. Though the hospital has had a simulation program for about a decade, it started 3D-printing children’s body parts about a year ago, said Dr. Peter Weinstock, director of the hospital’s simulator program.

“They perfect what they want to do before ever bringing the child into the operating room or putting them to sleep,” Weinstock said.

The models are also used to help parents understand their children’s surgeries before the operation and to educate students afterward, Weinstock said.

The printer is precise, with a resolution of between 16 and 32 microns per layer. That means each layer is about the width of a “filament of cotton,” Weinstock said. And since the printer can print multiple resins or textures, doctors can work on replicas that model different tissue types, like brain matter and blood vessels.

The printer only takes a few hours to do their work once CT scans and other forms of imaging are collected and rendered into 3D models. A child’s finger might take three hours to print, but a chest replica they made last week took longer, Weinstock said.

The team has already printed about 100 body parts over the last year and demand is growing, Weinstock said, adding that the printer is running around the clock.

Dr. Ed Smith, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Boston Children’s, said he recently used several different 3D models to perform brain surgery on a 15-year-old patient with an abnormal cluster of veins above his optical nerve. One wrong maneuver and the patient could have gone blind.

He even used a see-through replica of the patient’s skull on a light box in the operating room as a reference.

“It’s kind of like being superman with X-ray vision where you can actually hold this up and see right through it,” Smith said.

The surgery, which would have normally taken five or six hours, wound up clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, Smith said.

Though Boston Children’s hasn’t conducted any formal studies of how the models help surgeons, Smith said he’s heard anecdotally that they result in shorter surgeries because doctors know what to expect.

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Cardiovascular Trials May Be Skewed Towards Younger, Healthier Men

Ablestock.com/Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — According to researchers, the largest ongoing study on heart disease may be heavily tilted towards younger men, leaving out significant data on women, minorities and older people.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at data from the American College of Cardiology’s National Cardiovascular Data Registry, and found that many of the patients included in that study were younger men. The American College of Cardiology’s study includes heart attack patients treated at 466 different hospitals between July 2008 and March 2011.

Patients included in medical trials for heart disease often were less likely to have previously been diagnosed with heart disease, had faster access to diagnostic testing and had the best health outcomes. Among patients not included in trials, the risk of dying of cardiovascular problems was nearly double.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Cardiovascular Trials May Be Skewed Towards Younger, Healthier Men

Ablestock.com/Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — According to researchers, the largest ongoing study on heart disease may be heavily tilted towards younger men, leaving out significant data on women, minorities and older people.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at data from the American College of Cardiology’s National Cardiovascular Data Registry, and found that many of the patients included in that study were younger men. The American College of Cardiology’s study includes heart attack patients treated at 466 different hospitals between July 2008 and March 2011.

Patients included in medical trials for heart disease often were less likely to have previously been diagnosed with heart disease, had faster access to diagnostic testing and had the best health outcomes. Among patients not included in trials, the risk of dying of cardiovascular problems was nearly double.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Two African Ebola Patients to Be Discharged After Receiving Experimental Drug

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MONROVIA, Liberia) — Two African health workers who received doses of the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp are set to be discharged from the hospital later this week, a Liberian health official told ABC News Tuesday.

Three African health workers — two African doctors and one physician’s assistant — received the drug after contracting the virus earlier this month, according to Dr. Moses Massaquoi, who heads Ebola case management at Liberia’s health ministry.

Though they were all showing signs of improvement at first, one of the doctors died on Aug. 24. He also had diabetes and hypertension, Massaquoi said.

The remaining two patients improved soon after receiving the first of three doses of ZMapp — a cocktail of three antibodies meant to attack the virus. They are expected to be discharged on Friday.

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NFL, College Football Players to Utilize New Model of Helmet Intended to Reduce Concussion Risk

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Football equipment manufacturer Riddell has released a brand-new model of football helmet that it says flexes to help absorb impact, helping to minimize concussion risk, and a number of NFL and college football players and teams will be using the new technology this year.

Riddell says its SpeedFlex helmets will be available in September and may be seen in use in the college football world as early as this weekend. A press release from the company describes the technology as ripples [force] outward instead of inward, reducing impact transfer to the athlete. The helmets also feature improved sightlines and a new style of chinstrap.

Riddell said Tuesday that over half of Football Bowl Subdivision teams will have at least one player wearing the new helmet, as well as 80 percent of NFL teams. Among those donning the SpeedFlex helmets will be players from last year’s NCAA national champions Florida State University, as well as highly ranked college programs including Ohio State University, University of Florida, and the University of Texas, among others.

In the NFL, Riddell expects players from both of last year’s Super Bowl teams, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, as well as members of the New York Giants and Jets, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, and more, to wear the helmets.

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Ebola-Stricken Countries Scramble to Build Treatment Centers

Courtesy Dr. Richard Besser(MONROVIA, Liberia) — Aid groups in West Africa are scrambling to build treatment centers for the growing number of Ebola patients in the region.

The latest construction in Kenema, Sierra Leone, will house patients currently flooding the city’s public hospital.

The Ebola outbreak continues to spread through Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where at least 2,615 people have contracted the virus and 1,427 people have died, according to the World Health Organization.

Roughly 240 health care workers have been infected while working to curb the outbreak, according to WHO, 120 of whom have died.

Ebola is a contagious virus that spreads through contact with body fluids. The best way to prevent its spread is to isolate patients until they’re no longer showing symptoms such as fever, aches, diarrhea and vomiting.

But the unprecedented outbreak, that largest since the discovery of Ebola in 1976, has overwhelmed what little medical infrastructure existed before cases began to emerge in March 2014. Shuttered schools and buildings once reserved for cholera patients have been transformed into Ebola wards to keep up with the influx of patients.

In Liberia, new treatment centers are quickly filling up with previously unidentified Ebola patients leading health officials there to suspect an uncounted and untreated “invisible caseload,” according to WHO.

Meanwhile, the outbreak is depleting resources needed to address other medical problems, according to ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, who is reporting from Monrovia, Liberia.

“The number of women who give birth without a trained attendant, the number of children with malaria who go untreated, and the number of people who die from trauma because there is no hospital willing or able to take them is unknown,” Dr. Besser said.

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Don’t Live in the Past at Work

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — At work, are you ruminator or a forward thinker?

As researchers from Florida State University and University of Arkansas point out, one is better than the other and it doesn’t really take much thought to guess the right answer.

In their survey of 600 white and blue collar workers, about two in ten could be considered ruminators while 40 percent fell in the other category. The rest of the respondents were a combination of both.

The drawbacks of being a ruminator, that is, someone who fixates on past transgressions, were pretty clear. Many complained of high stress levels, sleeping difficulties, strained relations with others and feeling isolated, alone or even depressed at work.

According to the researchers, ruminators need to let go of the past before they start thinking forward. Several suggested methods include allowing themselves a set amount of time to go over the day’s events while associating themselves with forward-thinkers. They’re also advised to take whatever positive thing they can from an interaction and build upon it.

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Could Medical Marijuana Laws Cut Painkiller Deaths?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — States that have legalized medical marijuana may be reaping an unintended benefit from easing up on restrictions: They appear to have nearly 25 percent fewer deaths from overdoses involving prescription painkillers, a new study found.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, comes at a time when the United States finds itself in the throes of a growing painkiller abuse crisis. About 100 Americans die every day from narcotic painkiller overdose, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers behind the new study suggest that because legalizing medical marijuana makes it more available to chronic pain patients, it provides a potentially less lethal alternative to pain control on a long-term basis.

Three states had medical marijuana laws prior to 1999, and an additional 10 states passed laws providing some legal access to marijuana during the study period. Today, 23 states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing access to medical marijuana.

Lead study author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber said that while he and his team expected to find differences in painkiller-associated deaths among states with different medical marijuana laws, they did not anticipate such dramatic differences.

“We [found] it surprising that the difference is so big,” said Bachhuber, who is a physician and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.

Bachhuber and his colleagues analyzed data on all 50 states from 1999 to 2010 and found that, while opioid overdose rates continued to climb across the United States, the numbers climbed much slower in states with medical marijuana laws. As a result, these states had 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdose.

Also, this effect increased in the years after the laws were enacted, suggesting the laws themselves may cause the difference.

“In my practice, I take care of a lot of people with chronic pain,” Bachhuber said. “Sometimes, people with chronic pain would say only marijuana worked or they tried marijuana as a painkiller and found it worked better than prescription pills.”

“One day, talking with colleagues, we wondered how this would work in states where marijuana is legal,” he said.

The findings lend additional weight to the idea that medical marijuana legalization may protect some patients who take it from the potentially harmful side effects of other medications, experts not involved with the research said.

Dr. Igor Grant, chair of psychiatry at the University of California-San Diego and director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Research, said one possible explanation for the link seen in the new study is known as the “opioid-sparing effect.”

In other words, pain patients may benefit from combining opioid painkillers with less toxic medications that also provide pain relief.

“This isn’t a new idea,” Grant said. “Physicians have used combination drugs for a long time, such as acetaminophen with an opioid. By putting several different pain medications together, they are able to reduce the overall opioid dose, and thus decrease the risk of overdose.”

The other side of the coin to more permissive medical marijuana laws, however, is the effect it may have on recreational use of the drug. Research has shown that legalizing medical marijuana tends to increase use among adults.

Even study author Bachhuber agreed that this is a potential problem to consider.

“This study raises the possibility that there is an unintended public health benefit of medical marijuana laws, but we still need to collect more information to confirm or refute what we’ve found,” he said.

Grant, too, said legalizing medical marijuana comes with serious considerations. But studies like these suggest that there may be unanticipated benefits as well, he said.

“Not to say cannabis is trivial and couldn’t have a bad public health impact,” Grant said. “But, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

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How to Turn Scary Vaccinations into Little Vacations

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Bringing your kids to the doctor’s office for vaccinations doesn’t have to be an ordeal, according to Columbia University nurse practitioner Rita John.

Understandably, children, particularly the little ones, can feel anxiety before their shots, which isn’t helped when their parents also express their own trepidation.

John tells parents, “The best way to talk about vaccines is to keep the conversation positive and focused on the benefits of vaccination,” rather than making it out to be some sort of punishment.

One method of easing anxiety that has been shown to work is by picking up a toy medical kit so that youngsters can administer shots to a doll, toy or even mommy or daddy. At the doctor’s office, playthings like bubbles or pinwheels can also be used to distract toddlers and preschoolers.

According to John, “It doesn’t matter so much what you use to make your child more comfortable so long as you do something that acknowledges that they may experience some pain and that they can do something to make it hurt less.”

Meanwhile, clinicians might also be able to apply sprays or creams beforehand to numb the pain. After the shot is given, parents should praise their kids and a small reward doesn’t hurt either.

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