Monday, November 10, 2008

Influenza Vaccination can Help Cut Blood Clots in Veins

“Our study suggests for the first time that vaccination against influenza may reduce the risk of venous thrombotic embolism (VTE),” said Dr. Joseph Emmerich, lead author of the study and professor of vascular medicine at the University Paris Descartes and head of the INSERM Lab 765, which investigates thrombosis.

“This protective effect was more pronounced before the age of 52 years,” he said while presenting the findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2008.

VTE, the formation of a blood clot in a vein, is dangerous because the blood clot can break loose and travel through the circulatory system to the right side of the heart. It can further travel to the lungs, where it may prove to be life-threatening or even fatal.

For their research, the team conducted a case-control study among 1,454 age- and sex-matched patients (average age 52 years) from 11 centers in France (the FARIVE study).

The researchers compared 727 patients without personal history of cancer within the last five years who had initial episodes of VTE to a control group of age- and sex-matched patients free of venous and arterial thrombotic disease.

They revealed that patients younger than 18 years old — or those who already had VTE, had a diagnosis of active cancer or a history of malignancy less than five years previously, or had a short life expectancy due to other causes — were ineligible to participate in the study.

MP3 Headphones can Hamper Defibrillators, Pacemakers

Research found that neodymium, a magnetic substance contained in the MP3 player headphones, appears to impede proper functioning of the technology, posing a potential grave risk to patients who rely on the devices.

"Exposure of a defibrillator to the headphones can temporarily deactivate the defibrillator," said William Maisel, senior author of the study and director of the Medical Device Safety Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

The study, presented at an American Heart Association conference, concluded that in order to be operated safely, headphones accompanying the popular MP3 digital music players must be at least 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) from the implanted devices.

Scientists said patients using heart devices should not place MP3 player headphones in their pocket or drape them over their chest.

"For family members or friends of patients with implantable defibrillators," said Maisel, "they should avoid wearing headphones and resting their head right on top of someone's device."

Maisel and his research team determined that outside studies have found no adverse reactions to pacemakers and defibrillators from other portable electronic devices like iPods, Bluetooth headsets, iPhones, electric blankets or hand-held airport metal detectors.

Nine 'healthy towns' get £30m pot

Nine areas have been given the go-ahead to become "healthy towns" under a plan by ministers to combat obesity.

Dudley, Halifax, Sheffield, Tower Hamlets in London, Thetford in Norfolk, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Tewkesbury and Portsmouth will share a £30m pot.

The areas will all match the government funding to develop a host of schemes related to cycling, walking, healthy eating and green spaces.

It is part of a wider public health drive being rolled out in England.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "Obesity is the biggest health challenge we face.

"For the first time we've given nine areas "healthy town" status.

"This means they must promote healthy living. Each town has come up with innovative ways - such as a loyalty schemes or cycling projects - to help their residents to be more active.

"Healthy towns is just the start. Our aim is to create a healthy England."

Among the measures put foward is a project called Points4Life in Manchester, which is a loyalty scheme to reward people with free activities or healthy food when they take exercise.

Thetford is planning a "cycle recycle" project which supports people to buy and maintain bikes.

Warning over untested web 'cures'

Leading medical experts are warning patients against using untested remedies advertised on the internet which, they say, sell "false hope".

The group, backed by charity Sense About Science, says vulnerable people are being increasingly exploited by the online promotion of such treatments.

Many untested remedies are expensive and do not work, and are often based on "unreliable" evidence, the experts say.

A new guide has been published to help patients recognise bogus treatments.

Sense About Science says there are now hundreds of websites offering hope to people who are desperate for a cure.

Many online adverts and chat-room conversations testify to the "incredible" benefits of new medicines and treatments, often selling the empty promise of curing the incurable, the charity says.

Some offer stem cell treatments for brain disorders for tens of thousands of pounds. Others sell cures for multiple sclerosis and cancers.

But the evidence behind the remedies is often unreliable, experts say, and patients are increasingly being exploited.

Experts and patient groups want to see tighter regulation to reduce unfounded claims.

Dr Kieran Breen, director of research at the Parkinson's Disease Society, said: "It can be tempting to believe personal stories of miracle cures, but only by using tried and tested methods can we move forward and provide people with Parkinson's with the best available advice and treatments."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

ADHD Affects Movement More in Boys Than in Girls

TUESDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Girls with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) appear to have better control of their movements than boys with the common mental disorder, a new study says.

The study, published in the Nov. 4 issue of Neurology, found that girls with ADHD and a control group of children without the disorder did twice as well as boys with ADHD in a test that compared their abilities to tap their toes, walk on their heels, maintain balance and keep a steady rhythm. The results of the children, aged 7 to 15, were compared by age as well as gender.

"Our findings suggest that the differences between boys and girls with ADHD show up not only in behavior and symptoms, but also in development of movement control, likely because girls' brains mature earlier than boys' brains," study author E. Mark Mahone, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in an American Academy of Neurology news release.

Symptoms of ADHD include impulsiveness, hyperactivity, inattentiveness and constant daydreaming.

Mahone called for more ADHD movement studies that look at boys and girls separately and at younger ages.

Acupuncture may not help induce labor

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Acupuncture is promoted as alternative way to induce labor in women who go past their due date, but a new study finds no evidence that the tactic works.

About 5 percent to 10 percent of pregnant women go 2 weeks or more past their due date, a delay that raises the risk of complications during labor. Because of this, doctors routinely induce labor when a pregnancy lasts beyond 41 weeks.

During standard labor induction, the doctor uses an instrument to rupture the amniotic sac or gives synthetic forms of prostaglandins or oxytocin -- hormones that normally help trigger labor.

Acupuncture has been promoted as an alternative; in theory, it may work by stimulating the nervous system, which in turn could cause the uterus to contract.

But in the new study of 364 pregnant women who were past their due dates, Australian researchers found that 2 days of acupuncture therapy did not reduce the need for standard forms of labor induction.

Dr. Caroline A. Smith and colleagues at the University of Adelaide report the findings in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Acupuncture has been used for more than 2,000 years in Chinese medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. According to traditional medicine, specific acupuncture points on the skin are connected to internal pathways that conduct energy, or qi ("chee"), and stimulating these points with a fine needle promotes the healthy flow of qi.

For their study, Smith and her colleagues randomly assigned patients to either undergo real acupuncture or a "sham" version where needles were inserted only superficially, into areas of the skin other than traditional acupuncture points.

Each woman had two sessions performed over the 2 days before her scheduled labor induction.

In the end, Smith's team found, women who had the real acupuncture were just as likely as the comparison group to need any of the standard forms of labor induction and did not have a shorter labor once it was induced.

Still, the researchers conclude, the findings do not prove that acupuncture has no use in inducing labor. They say larger studies should look at whether starting acupuncture sooner, or doing more sessions, aids labor induction.

In the meantime, acupuncture at least seems to do no harm.

"There is no evidence of harm from the administration of acupuncture in the postterm period to the mother or fetus," Smith and her colleagues write, "and women may still seek out the use of acupuncture to prepare for labor."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obesity, Other Health Problems Delay MS Diagnosis

"Our study suggests that doctors who treat people with chronic diseases should not attribute new neurological symptoms such as numbness and tingling to existing conditions without careful consideration," said study author Ruth Ann Marrie, MD, PhD, of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, and member of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, researchers examined the records of 8,983 people who had been diagnosed with MS. Of those, 2,375 were further classified as having mild, moderate or severe disability within two years of diagnosis. This well-characterized group was asked about pre-existing health conditions, their smoking status and weight history.

The study found that it took one to 10 years longer for people who were obese, smoked, or had physical or mental health conditions to be diagnosed with MS compared to people without such conditions. The study also found that the more medical problems a person with MS had, the more severe the disease had become by the time they were diagnosed.

"People with vascular problems or who were obese were about one-and-a-half times more likely to be moderately disabled at the time of diagnosis compared with those who had MS but did not have any heart or weight problems," said Marrie. "We also found people who had a mental disorder or any muscle or joint problem along with MS were nearly two times more likely to be severely disabled at the time of diagnosis."

Marrie says pre-existing conditions are common in the United States and can mask symptoms of a new disease or affect access to patient care. "People with multiple medical problems on top of MS may need more healthcare resources or might respond differently to medication," Marrie said. "This needs more study."