iStock-522188889Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, with more than 1 million people affected in the US alone.  While many of us associate PD with characteristic trembling hands and a shuffling gait, the constellation of symptoms experienced by those with the disorder is much greater, and includes sleep disturbances, mood changes, depression, and excessive daytime sleepiness, among others. Now comes a study in JAMA Neurology Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week that uses timed light exposure therapy twice daily to ameliorate the sleep disturbance and daytime sleepiness.  And the great news is it worked!

The study was admittedly small, with only 31 patients whose medications were stable and who had excessive daytime sleepiness enrolled. Participants were randomized to receive either bright light or red light for one hour twice daily for two weeks. At the end of that time sleep fragmentation, daytime sleepiness, and time needed to fall asleep all improved in the bright light group.  And as Rick points out in the podcast, the therapy was easy to administer, could be done at home, and certainly bears further study for optimization.

Other studies this week include two from Annals of Internal Medicine: Maintenance of Weight Loss After Initiation of Nutrition TrainingA Randomized Trial and Effectiveness of an Internet-Delivered Exercise and Pain-Coping Skills Training Intervention for Persons With Chronic Knee PainA Randomized Trial, and in the BMJ, Low intensity pulsed ultrasound for bone healing: guideline. Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock-537307838Great news for women who must have chemotherapy for breast cancer! The relatively simple measure of cooling the scalp before the administration of chemotherapy and then for a while afterward reduces hair loss quite a bit, Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week. That's as published in two studies in JAMA. And as Rick freely admits in the podcast, those of us who are fortunate enough not to have had treatment for cancer that includes prospective or actual hair loss may consider it a relatively minor inconvenience when compared with things like profound fatigue and vomiting, but a significant number of women cited in these studies identified hair loss as their reason for choosing not to undergo chemotherapy, potentially life-extending or not. So clearly developing ways to reduce or eliminate this side effect contributes substantially to quality of life.

The procedure to utilize the scalp cooling device was simple and in one study, involved cooling the scalp to 37 degrees F for 30 minutes prior to chemotherapy infusion, during the infusion itself and afterward for 90-120 minutes.  To me this sounds like extra time spent at the infusion center but more importantly if my head was chilled my body would follow! My hope is that heated blankets were provided to these women to avoid chills. Results for both studies indicated that hair loss was reduced by 50% or greater among those whose scalps were chilled compared to 0% reduction for those in the placebo arm.  Women who retained their hair also reported feeling more attractive than those who didn't. Rick cites a few thousand dollars added to the total cost of treatment by employing this strategy, and we both hope insurance will soon provide coverage for it.

Other topics this week include Associations of maternal BMI and insulin resistance with the maternal metabolome and newborn outcomes in Diabetologia, Opioid Prescribing and Risk of Long-Term Use in NEJM, and Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians, in Annals of Internal Medicine. Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock-185126935People with sickle cell trait have one copy of a gene that can confer frank sickle cell disease to offspring, if combined with a second gene for the condition from a partner. As Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week, people with sickle cell trait may not have the often severe manifestations of sickle cell disease but they do experience consequences of the trait, specifically aberrant hemoglobin A1c measurements if they also have diabetes.  Since about 10% of African Americans do have sickle cell trait and the prevalence of diabetes is increasing, awareness of this is important for physicians and patients alike, as reported in JAMA this week.

Data from just over 4600 subjects from several different studies were examined retrospectively. The association of sickle cell trait with hemoglobin A1c measurements after controlling for fasting glucose or 2 hour glucose measurements was the primary outcome. Those with sickle cell trait had lower hemoglobin A1c levels for any given fasting or 2-hour glucose measurements, for an average of 5.72% versus 6.01% when compared to subjects without sickle cell trait. Clearly such a difference can skew interpretations of glucose control among those who also have diabetes, with Rick opining that this is yet one more factor doctors need to account for in using hemoglobin A1c.  We both acknowledge the fact that some investigators and clinicians are advocating for fasting glucose rather than hemoglobin A1c as a better metric for the state of an individual's diabetes, and suspect we'll be hearing more about this issue in upcoming studies.

Other topics this week include Prognostic Mutations in Myelodysplastic Syndrome after Stem-Cell Transplantation in NEJM, Nicotine, Carcinogen, and Toxicant Exposure: Comparison of E-Cigarette and Nicotine Replacement Therapy Users in Annals, and Pediatric Exposures to Veterinary Pharmaceuticals in Pediatrics. Until next week, y'all well.

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iStock-490025288Clinical trials might be considered rarified air, with all factors controlled for except for the one under investigation.  At least that's the hope. Now, as Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week and published in JAMA Internal Medicine, when data from a single clinical trial is used as the basis to inform lung cancer screening, results from the real world, or at least the Veteran's Administration manifestation of it, aren't so stellar, and in fact, call into question whether such screening should be done at all.

Just over 2100 current or former heavy smokers who were part of the VA population underwent low dose CT for lung cancer screening, as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), at eight sites in the United States. Almost 60% of this group had lung nodules; of that number just over 56% required tracking. Only 1.5% had lung cancer. A variety of incidental findings were identified as might be expected, but in short, there was a huge burden of counseling, screening and follow up for a very modest identification of people whose lung cancer was still potentially curable. Does this mean that we should simply abandon the practice of screening? As Rick opines, what's really needed, and seems to be poised on the horizon, is an accurate, easy screening test with not much in the way of false positives or false negatives. Hopefully such a blood test will become practical in the very near future.

Other topics this week include two from JAMA Cardiology: Association of Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement With Quality of Life and Cardiac Sympathetic Activity in Electronic Cigarette Users, and in the Lancet: Socioeconomic status and the 25 × 25 risk factors as determinants of premature mortality: a multicohort study and meta-analysis of 1·7 million men and women. Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock-485935060C.dif is the abbreviation for one scourge of modern healthcare: an infection that often results in severe diarrhea, is challenging to treat, recurs readily, and may result in death. Now, as Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, hope has arrived in the form of a new antibody to treat C. dif, or Clostridium difficile.

Turns out there are two antibodies against toxins produced by the organism reported in NEJM this week, but only the one against toxin B, known as bezlotoxumab, turned out to be much help. Over 2500 adults with primary or recurrent C.dif infection were included in this study, all of whom received standard oral antibiotics, followed by one or both antibodies or placebo. Those who received bezlotoxumab were more likely to achieve a sustained cure, that is no recurrence after initial clinical cure within 12 weeks, than those who received both antibodies or placebo.

The antibodies were administered by a single IV infusion following routine antibiotic therapy. The most common side effects reported by 2% of subjects included nausea and headache. Rick and I agree that these are impressive results and might be improved with more than one dose of the antibody or combination with fecal transplant.  Rick also advised me that the drug has just been approved by the FDA, so should soon be available widely.

Other topics this week include Association of Patient-Physician Language Concordance and Glycemic Control for Limited–English Proficiency Latinos With Type 2 Diabetes in JAMA Internal Medicine, a method for assessing medical devices once they're on the market Prospective Surveillance of Medical-Device Safety in NEJM, and Physician Decision Making and Clinical Outcomes With Laboratory Polysomnography or Limited-Channel Sleep Studies for Obstructive Sleep ApneaA Randomized Trial in Annals of Internal Medicine. Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock-504309690High blood pressure or hypertension is a well-known risk factor for heart attack and stroke. And while there is currently a lot of controversy over exact blood pressures to be targeted in different populations, one group of people remains especially problematic: those with slightly high blood pressure. These folks aren't clearly at risk for a cardiovascular event and no one wants to use medicines daily if they aren't really needed. Now a new study from Johns Hopkins published in Circulation that Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week may help.

Hopkins researchers used data from a long term study known by the acronym MESA for Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Blood pressure measurements as well as routine risk calculators were used to calculate cardiovascular risk for over 3700 participants. Then researchers added coronary calcium scoring, a quick, noninvasive CT scan of the heart, to the mix. They found that adding this score was able to much more accurately inform which of those subjects with slightly elevated blood pressure would benefit from using blood pressure lowering medication. As Rick and I note in the podcast, however, the real proof of utility will come when a prospective study is done on this group of people, but for now, it helps inform decision making.

Other topics this week include two from JAMA: Reevaluation of Diagnosis in Adults With Physician-Diagnosed Asthma and Association Between Diabetes and Cause-Specific Mortality in Rural and Urban Areas of China, and a look at tonsillectomy in Pediatrics: Tonsillectomy Versus Watchful Waiting for Recurrent Throat Infection: A Systematic Review. Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock-183991779Wow.  Hard as it is for me to believe, Rick and I focus our attention this week on PodMed on the subject of ear wax, or cerumen, as it's known among the medical tribe.  Why is that?  Because the American Academy of Otolaryngology has published new guidelines on the subject, and it's a lot more impactful (boo!) than we were aware.

Rick points out in the podcast that there are certain groups who are at high risk to have ear wax accumulate and become impacted in the ear canal, including the elderly, small children, those who wear hearing aids and those who live in nursing homes or have dementia. In fact one in ten people may suffer from such a condition. When cerumen becomes impacted hearing can clearly be affected, but a sensation of fullness and even infection can also result. Getting the stuff out is more problematic than you may think; the adage I heard many years ago about never inserting anything larger than your elbow in  your ear is once again invoked.  Cotton tipped swabs may actually make the problem worse and are not recommended.  Folks are advised to see their primary care doc, who can first visualize whether there is a problem, and then use either mechanical means to remove it or chose among several agents to dissolve it. Even this choice may be complicated by whether someone is on a blood thinner or has other medical conditions.  Who knew? Guess we're glad they stepped up to this.

Other topics this week include Efficacy of Oral Risperidone, Haloperidol, or Placebo for Symptoms of Delirium Among Patients in Palliative CareA Randomized Clinical Trial in JAMA Internal Medicine, and two from Annals of Internal Medicine:

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iStock-505980885Asthma is a killer, especially for children. Now a study Rick and I report on PodMed this week and published in the New England Journal of Medicine offers hope for preventing this condition by supplementing pregnant women with fish oil. Novel for sure, and able to reduce the incidence of asthma and wheezing in offspring by an impressive 30%+.  What exactly did they do?

First off it must be admitted that the study took place in Denmark, one of the places in the world where a robust and trusted healthcare system could identify, recruit, supplement women during pregnancy and track offspring for a few years after their birth.  Moreover Denmark may have been one of the few places where the a priori hypothesis that reduced consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and the observed increase in asthma and wheezing in children were related.  In any case, 736 women recruited to the study were randomly assigned to receive 2.4 grams of fish oil per day or olive oil, beginning at 24 weeks of gestation. Their children were followed for three years after birth. In short, the study found that supplementation resulted in a one-third reduction of wheezing, asthma, and upper respiratory infections among those children whose mothers took fish oil. As Rick and I comment, seems like a reasonable strategy to employ right now in all pregnant women, as the downside is almost nonexistent while the potential upside sizable.

Other topics this week include two from Annals of Internal Medicine:Readmission Rates After Passage of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction ProgramA Pre–Post Analysis and The Scientific Basis of Guideline Recommendations on Sugar IntakeA Systematic Review, and from JAMA US Spending on Personal Health Care and Public Health, 1996-2013.  Happy New Year, and y'all live well.

 

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iStock-510952418Imagine having an EEG to look at brain activity when assessing choices of underwear, specifically with regard to color.  Hmmm.  Sounds like a bunch of people, both investigators and study participants, with too much time on their hands, but there it is.  As Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week and published in the Australasian Marketing Journal (!), researchers asked 20 subjects to evaluate underwear that was red, white, blue, brown, grey or black while having a 6 channel EEG. Brain wave activity was collected from frontal, temporal, and occipital lobes, with results demonstrating a clear bilateral change in all three lobes when the subject indicated their preferred color. Most interestingly and informative for the Christmas season, women preferred red undergarments while men preferred white. Rick refers to this phenomenon as 'tighty whities' and we both agree that men who are buying their female partners underwear should take note.

Other fun topics this week include Effects of Mediterranean diet in patients with recurring colds and frequent complicationsStudy of a laboratory-scaled new method for the accelerated continuous ageing of wine spirits by applying ultrasound energy and Use of LED light for Brussels sprouts post harvest conservation. Happy reading, and a Merry Christmas!  Until next week, y'all live well.

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m_joi160106f2Where you live in the United States may have a big impact on how you die, a study Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week and published in JAMA demonstrates. We are both impressed with the shear size of this database as well as the prodigious crunching that had to take place to generate an array of illustrative graphics.  Said graphics depict the map of the United States with death from various causes represented, and illustrate the fact that the southern part of the country suffers a disproportionate amount of cardiovascular disease and death from violence. As Rick points out in the podcast, this is also where risk factors such as smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyle are prevalent, so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising. He also points out that targeted interventions are both possible and indicated in these areas, so clearly the study is of huge public health importance.

The study in unique in that it actually calculates death rates by county, of which there are over 3000, in the United States, for the 21 most common causes of death. It also attempts to correct for so-called 'garbage codes,' relative to causes of death that don't provide any real information. Interestingly, from the over 80 million deaths that took place during the time period in this study, over 19 million were assigned garbage codes as causes of death.  This points out another public health issue relative to gathering of trustworthy data.  No doubt plenty of initiatives will result from this study, we agree.

Other topics this week include Association Between Statin Exposure and Alzheimer Disease by Sex/Race in JAMA Neurology, Demographic Differences in Adult Use of Psychiatric Drugs in JAMA Neurology, and NIDA statistics on teen substance use and abuse.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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