Health

zimbio.com

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association says the number of coronary artery bypass surgeries performed in the U.S. has fallen by nearly a third over the past decade.

Some patients are treated with drugs to dissolve a blood clot that's blocking an artery in order to prevent a heart attack.

Others undergo balloon angioplasty and get stents to open the artery.

But some will need bypass surgery – which usually means opening the chest and stopping the heart.

The University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Medical Research Institute received a gift of $56 million from A. Alfred Taubman, a real estate developer and philanthropist from Michigan. The funds will be used for stem cell and cancer research.

U-M President, Mary Sue Coleman, says the money will go toward what is called high-risk research:

Federal Trade Commission

Two men from Michigan were named in a series of lawsuits filed by the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims about the health benefits of acai berries. The FTC filed a total of ten cases against similar websites across the country.        

user the consumerist / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that protects doctors from lawsuits if they express sympathy for the death of a patient.

Snyder says health care providers are often prohibited from saying “I’m sorry” when a medical procedure fails because it can be considered an admission of guilt in court.

Snyder said the new law will allow doctors to be more supportive, "and the opportunity for health care professionals to have a dialogue with families that have had some traumatic experiences," said Snyder. "So it’s great to have an opportunity to have that be done in a safe and thoughtful fashion so people can have good communication and good dialogue."

Snyder says studies show that when a doctor is allowed to say “I’m sorry,” people who are grieving are better able to heal.

user striatic / Flickr

People with pre-existing medical conditions now have the option of paying lower premiums and higher deductibles if they enroll with Michigan’s Health Insurance Program.

State officials are trying to get more people to take advantage of the program that is a precursor to national health care reforms taking effect in 2014.

Eric Schneidewind, president of the Michigan chapter of AARP, says only a few hundred people have enrolled with the program so far.

“I think it’s a new program, for one thing, and they just don’t know it exists. And so they aren’t aware of it, they haven’t taken advantage of it, and so it’s really potentially a very good deal for a person who has a chronic condition of health—bad health.”

Schneidewind hopes offering the lower premium and higher deductible will encourage thousands of people to enroll. He says hundreds-of-thousands of people in Michigan are eligible.

"I’ve run across members who have tragic stories about themselves or their children who really probably died prematurely because they couldn’t get adequate health care for a chronic condition. What I’m telling our members at AARP and elsewhere, there now is an option, it is affordable."

The health care company that runs the pool recently got federal approval for a plan to bring down rates that can still be hundreds of dollars a month. The new plan allows people with preexisting conditions to pay higher deductibles and lower premiums than were previously offered.

Michigan is one of a group of states suing the federal government to opt out of national health care reform.

Dr. Lazar Greenfield, an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Michigan, resigned as president-elect of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) after writing a controversial editorial in a February issue of  Surgery News. Greenfield also served as the lead editor for ACS' content in the publication - a post he has also resigned.

The editorial suggested that semen has a mood-enhancing effect on women. It concluded, "so there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates."

The entire February issue of Surgery News was retracted by ACS after receiving complaints.

You can find Dr. Greenfield's editorial as originally posted on Retraction Watch.

White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce

Residents of White Lake gathered this morning to dispute their inclusion on a list of cancer clusters in Michigan. The list was compiled by the National Disease Cluster Coalition.  

Claire Schlaff  started the White Lake Cancer Mapping Project after her son passed away from a rare cancer. She says the National Disease Cluster Coalition misinterpreted information from the White Lake Cancer Mapping project:

“The materials they put out kind of made it look like all of these were confirmed clusters, including ours, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Although we’re looking into it, nothing has been confirmed.”

Schlaff said the White Lake Mapping Project data will not be ready for analysis for at least a year. She says the project was meant to find a link between cancer and the environment:

“I’m not looking for a yes or no answer about whether there’s a cancer cluster here. What I am trying to do and what our group is trying to do is to learn more about the connection between the environment and cancers.”

White Lake was put on a list of toxic hotspots in the mid-1980s because of pollution from the Occidental Chemical Company.

Kitt Walker / flickr

Detroit is the site of an important medical discovery that’s expected to reduce infant mortality.

Doctors at the Detroit Medical Center, Wayne State University, and the National Institutes of Health identified women likely to deliver their babies early with a simple hormone gel. They treated those women with a hormone gel and reduced the chance of premature delivery by 45 percent. Mike Duggan is the President of the Detroit Medical Center.

"The idea that you could spot a likelihood of that premature delivery and prevent it in really remarkable numbers it is a world changing discovery. This is going to change the infant mortality rate."

Doctor Tom Malone is the head of DMC’s Hutzel Women’s Hospital.

"Prematurity and small for gestational age probably impacts infant mortality more than anything else, and the infant mortality rate in the city of Detroit is the highest in the state. So you get an idea of how significant this study is."

Over 500,000  babies are born early each year in the United States. Prematurity is the leading cause of infant mortality.

Scott Soderberg/U-M Photo Services

The University of Michigan has announced it has created new embryonic stem cell lines for medical research.  Developing its own stem cell lines has been an important goal of the university’s stem cell research center since its inception two years. 

In a written statement, Gary Smith, co-director of the U-M Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies and leader of the cell-line derivation project, talked about the importance of this milestone for the consortium:

"All our efforts are finally starting to bear fruit...Creating disease-specific human embryonic stem cell lines has been a central goal of the consortium since it was formed two years ago, and now we've passed that milestone." 

The stem cell lines carry genes responsible for a type of hemophilia and a neurological disorder. In the future, researchers at the University of Michigan hope to develop additional stem cell lines that will help with research into Huntington's disease,  spinal muscular atrophy and Tay-Sachs.

New University of Michigan research finds more women are having more children by more than one father. The U of M study shows 28% of women with two or more children had those children by more than one man. Among African-American women that number goes up to 59%.

Cassandra Dorius is a demographer at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

“I think it’s just that families are changing. That families have been changing for a long time and that this is just one more indication that they are new and different today."

Dorius says families with multiple fathers face higher stress levels, as children and parents try to balance emotional and financial pressures. 

She says the growing remarriage trend , as well as single parenthood, is increasing ‘Multiple Partner Fertility’ in the U.S.

countyhealthrating.org

A new study says Ottawa County is the healthiest county in Michigan. The county borders Lake Michigan’s shore directly west of Grand Rapids.

Marcia Knoll is a community health analyst at Ottawa County’s Health Department. She says the department does not take credit for the county’s “healthiest” rating. Knoll says there are many organizations, churches and people working together to keep the community healthy.

“Instead of standing like silos, each with our own agenda and our own territory. So that’s not the environment here, that’s not the culture here and I think that has stood us well in the struggles and with our health care.”

The study was done by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It looks at a number of measures that affect a community’s health; how many people smoke, are overweight, and have access to fresh, healthy foods.

(courtesy of astronautscholarship.org)

This weekend you’ll have a chance to buy a piece of Michigan and space history. A state of Michigan flag, carried on board Apollo 15,  to the moon and back, is being auctioned. All three members of the Apollo 15 crew had ties to the University of Michigan.

The online auction benefits a science scholarship program. Former NASA astronaut Al Worden piloted the Apollo spacecraft. The Michigan native hopes the 8 by 12 inch flag will attract a lot of bidding. 

“I would expect it to bring in 5 or 6 thousand dollars.  I think the last one that sold at auction I donated brought in almost $6 thousand.”

Worden says the online auction is raising money for science scholarships. 

 “We give out something like 25 scholarships…10 thousand dollars each…every year…which means we have to raise a lot of money.  And one of the ways we do that is by selling artifacts that are donated by astronauts who’ve made a flight…and that is kind of a mainstay how we raise our money.”  

The online auction of NASA memorabilia concludes Saturday night at 10 pm. Anyone interested in bidding on the space flag should go to ‘AstronautScholarship.org’.

NPR.org

For soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the biggest threats has been IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices. When these bombs go off, they can do enormous physical damage. But they can also cause damage to the soldier that often goes undetected.

NPR's Daniel Zerdling and ProPublica conducted an investigation of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) in soldiers serving in the U.S. military.

In the series, Brain Wars, they found that "the military medical system is failing to diagnose brain injuries in troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom receive little or no treatment for lingering health problems."

We're beginning to learn more about the persistent debilitating effects of these brain injuries from studies of football and hockey players and other athletes involved in contact sports. These are unseen injuries. Injuries that, prior to our understanding of them, might have gotten a "shake it off, you just got your bell rung" response from a coach.

As it turns out, the military has been slow to understand the effects of these brain injuries as well.

To get a grasp of how these unseen brain injuries can affect somebody - watch this video of Sgt. Victor Medina who says, "sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier to get my leg blown off - you can see it.":

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Students of Western Michigan University are reacting to the donation of $100 million dollars to Western Michigan University for their medical school. MLive reports:

A few hours after the announcement of a $100 million cash gift to jump-start Western Michigan University’s medical school, the event was replayed on a video kiosk inside the Bern­hard Center and caught the at­tention of several students.

The state Court of Appeals today ruled against Michigan in a prescription drug case.  The decision could cost the state millions of dollars. 

In 2004, the pharmaceutical company Merck pulled the arthritis drug, Vioxx, off the market, because it caused serious heart and other health problems.

user tejvanphotos / Flickr

All signs are pointing to spring as the area heads for a big warm up today.

The last piles of snow and ice on the ground could melt away as temperatures might go as high as 67 degrees today in southern Michigan, 63 in the Grand Rapids area.

From the Detroit Free Press:

"Today is going to be very spring-like," National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Considine said from the White Lake office today.

Highs will be in the mid- to upper-60s between 3 and 6 p.m., with cloudy skies and a southwest wind, he said. The average high for March 17 is 46, and the record high of 75 was set in 1945.

"We’re going to be 20 degrees above normal for today," Considine said, adding that temperatures won't get high enough to break today's record.

No snow is expected in the near term, but don't put away that shovel just yet, we are in Michigan after all.

Mariner 10 / NASA

Today is a big day for lovers of the planet Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.

NASA's MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging) vehicle will start to orbit Mercury today.

Of all the terrestrial planets, Mercury remains one of the most mysterious.

NASA's Mariner 10 took some photos during flybys back in 1974 and 1975. And more recently, MESSENGER took some photos and grabbed some samples on a flyby in 2008.

The New York Times had a piece on what scientists learned about Mercury from the 2008 flyby:

An instrument aboard Messenger sampled Mercury’s surface composition by catching some of the charged atoms that have been knocked into space. Silicon, sodium and sulfur were detected. So was water.

“Which is a real surprise,” said Thomas H. Zurbuchen, an associate professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan and lead author of another paper in Science. “The first time we took a whiff of the planet, it’s right there.”

One possibility is that the water exists as ice in the shaded parts of craters in the polar regions.

Today, MESSENGER will begin orbiting the planet every 12 hours. Engineers at the University of Michigan say "an onboard device dubbed FIPS (Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer), a soda-can sized sensor designed and built at the University of Michigan will take atmospheric measurements, studying the evolution of rocky planets as it orbits Mercury."

Here, Thomas Zurbuchen, the lead engineer from the University of Michigan, talks about FIPS:

www.sefmd.org

Students from 143 Detroit area schools competed in the Metro Detroit Science and Engineering Fair Wednesday.

Almost 1400 middle and high school students displayed their projects at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Students from Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county schools showed off research projects in 13 categories, ranging from computer science to zoology.

Fair organizers say participation in the fair is trending upward, and participation from Detroit Public Schools students shot up dramatically this year.

(Wikipedia Commons)

Since the Japanese nuclear crisis began, the handful of pharmacies in Michigan that stock anti-radiation medicine are seeing an uptick in demand.   

(Flickr spike55151)

The state agency charged with monitoring radiation at Michigan’s three nuclear reactors has so far not recorded any increased radiation coming from Japan. Japan’s troubled nuclear reactors might be a half a world away, but it wouldn’t be the first time a nuclear accident overseas had an effect on Michigan. 

The state of Michigan has been monitoring radiation levels since January of 1958. Ken Yale is the acting chief of the Department of Environmental Quality’s Radiological Protection Section. His office monitors radiation levels at Michigan’s three nuclear plants (Fermi 2, DC Cook and Palisades). He says the last time his office recorded abnormal radiation readings was back in the mid-1980’s, at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine.

Experts do not expect a ‘Chernobyl’ level of radiation release from the Japanese reactors, due to improved containment technology.

Craig Finlay / Creative Commons

Michigan’s medical marijuana law allows people to use the drug, but motor vehicle laws forbid driving with any marijuana in your system. The legal battle could head to the State Court of Appeals.

Rodney Koon was pulled over for speeding a little over a year ago. Officers in Traverse City found a pipe in his pocket so he showed them his medical marijuana card. The Traverse City Eagle-Record says Koon was charged with driving under the influence of a schedule one controlled substance (others include ecstasy, heroin, and LSD) after a drug test revealed he had marijuana in his system.

A county judge ruled the state’s medical marijuana law protects Koon from prosecution. He said prosecutors need to have more solid evidence a driver is impaired while driving. State driving laws say people can’t drive with even a trace amount of schedule one controlled substances in their system.  

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is supporting the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s appeal to the State Court of Appeals. He says Koon isn’t “being prosecuted for using marijuana, but for driving shortly after using it.”

wired.com

It’s no secret that air pollution can lead to breathing problems, like asthma. But a new study will look at what else pollutants may be doing to humans.

Michigan State University has been named a Clean Air Research Center by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Scientists will investigate how certain mixtures of air pollutants affect human health.

MSU professor Jack  Harkema is leading the study.

He says certain toxins may contribute to or even cause heart disease or diabetes, especially in people with other health issues.

"One of those risk groups are people who are overweight or obese," Harkema says. "And maybe you wouldn't think of that right away, but we have some evidence, just like  cigarette smoke, can affect multiple organ systems."

The study will take place primarily in the Detroit area and in rural areas.

University of Michigan and Ohio State University researchers are also taking part.

Race & Happiness

Mar 7, 2011
(flickr kk+)

A new Michigan State University study finds Black Americans who identify strongly with their racial identity tend to be happier. MSU researchers talked with African-Americans living in Michigan.  

Researcher Stevie Yap says they found people who said that ‘being black’ was an important part of their life and gave them a sense of ‘belongingness” to a wider community.  

"We did also find the sense of belongingness…the degree to which that is a mechanism…in racial identity to happiness…that is especially the case for women.”

The MSU study appears in the current issue of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.

Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing will start laying off about 7 percent of it’s workforce this week.

Interim hospital CEO Patrick Salow says a 10 percent decline in patient numbers over the past year is forcing the staffing cuts. He says the layoffs will affect the hospital’s nursing staff, but the layoffs will also affect other divisions like the finance department.

“If we’ve got fewer patients, so there’s fewer bills to send out, do we need as many people to process bills for example."

The total layoff will be between 100 and 150 hospital employees.

Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

The country is facing a nursing shortage, but schools in our region can’t keep up with the demand for nursing education.

As we reported in our first story, that’s partly because there are a limited number of clinical settings where student nurses can work with patients.

Now, to augment the clinical experience, some nursing programs are enlisting the help of a newfangled dummy, wired with smart technology.

Actually, calling these high tech mannequins “dummies” might be a bit insulting.

Forget those passive plastic torsos you’ve seen in CPR demonstrations. We’re talking about high fidelity mannequins, remotely operated by IT guys with headsets and laptops.

Larissa Miller runs the nursing simulation program at Lansing Community College. She can wax poetic about the virtues of the school’s simulated man.

“Our mannequin can shake,” she said, “which is great, we make him have a seizure right in the bed. He can sweat and it starts pouring down his face. He blinks, he breathes, he has pulses…”

He talks. And his female counterpart can even give birth. Miller has been a nurse for 19 years and she says the technology is exploding, "simulation is absolutely one of the fastest paced things I’ve ever watched in education," she said.

Health care students face long wait lists (Part 1)

Mar 2, 2011
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

Nursing is a hot career.

The federal government says the field will create more new jobs than any other profession this decade — almost 600,000 jobs by 2018.

But there’s a bottleneck.

Schools in our region can’t keep up with all the people who want to become nurses or other health care workers.

In the first of two stories, Changing Gears is examining some of the high tech tools schools are using to help ease the training crunch.

A new study says overuse of antibiotics is still a big problem, fifteen years after the Centers for Disease Control began a campaign to stop the practice.  

Marianne Udow-Phillips is head of the University of Michigan’s Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation.  She says antibiotics do not work for viral infections.  And the more physicians over-prescribe antibiotics, the more pathogens will develop resistance to the drugs.  But she says patients and doctors alike haven’t gotten the message. Udow-Phillips says:

"We’re just sick for a long time and we just want that magic pill to fix us... But if we have a virus, an antibiotic is not gonna help.  And sometimes physicians cave in to the pressure from families who say, 'just do something'."

Udow-Phillips says drug-resistant staph has become a huge problem.  In fact, more Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant staph infections than AIDS. 

The practice of overprescribing the drugs is a bigger problem in some parts of Michigan than others, the study found.  In Holland, only about 10% of children who saw a doctor for an upper respiratory viral infection were given a prescription for antibiotics.

But in West Branch, nearly 68% of children with upper respiratory infections were given a prescription for an antibiotic.

Udow-Phillips thinks the differences in prescription rates is most likely because the CDC campaign focused on pediatricians rather than family physicians or internal medicine specialists.  She says more children may be seeing family physicians in areas like West Branch.

Udow-Phillips says the worst part of it is, physicians are often over-prescribing so-called "broad spectrum" antibiotics, when "narrow spectrum" antibiotics would, at least, do less harm.

Eddie Griffith / Flickr

The Michigan House could vote on a bill this week that protects doctors who say “I’m sorry” from having the comment used against them in a lawsuit.  

Rick Boothman is the chief risk officer for the University of Michigan Health System. The U-of-M adopted a policy 10 years ago to encourage doctors to show compassion and sympathy when a medical procedure goes wrong.

“The practice of medicine is inherently very risky and when things go badly, it can feel very punitive. Historically, we have chilled the communication between patients and physicians because physicians are afraid of saying anything that’s going to get them into trouble.”

Boothman says it’s impossible to tell if the policy is the cause, but the number of malpractice lawsuits against his hospital has gone down in the past decade.

The bill before the Legislature would not shield doctors from liability if they admit a mistake.

Contrando Estrelas / Flickr

Fewer than 200 people have signed up for Michigan’s federally subsidized health coverage pool. The pool was created for people with pre-existing medical conditions but no insurance.

The managers of the program say there are thousands of openings. But some prospective buyers appear to be put off by the cost.

Even at a reduced rate, the premiums can run as high as $650 a month for people in their 50s and their 60s. Younger people get a lower rate – as little as $180 a month, but it can still be difficult for some people to come up with that much money. 

Some hospitals are offering to split the cost of premiums with patients, or to direct people to foundations that can help with payments.

Kevin Downey, who is with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, thinks there are dangers to avoiding insurance.

“Those without coverage are in situations where their conditions worsen and by the time they are actually seen at a hospital in the emergency room there are fewer options and the costs are higher.”

Eric Schneidewind is with AARP of Michigan. He says providing treatment for people with chronic conditions is a bargain for everyone.

“People who do not have insurance who show up at a hospital are costing the rest of us a thousand dollars a year to pay for this, so it’s in our interest to get these people coverage and have them pay what they can afford to pay rather than nothing and have no coverage.”

The pre-existing conditions pool won’t be necessary after 2013 under the new federal healthcare law. After that, everyone will be required to carry coverage through healthcare exchanges, and people can’t be turned down for a medical condition.

medindia.net

Women who’ve been treated for breast cancer often suffer from extreme fatique. A Michigan State University professor wants to try an ancient procedure to see if it can relieve the  symptoms.

Gwen Wyatt, a professor at MSU’s College of Nursing, says breast cancer patients who’ve undergone chemotherapy and radiation therapies often complain of being very tired -- all the time.

Wyatt will teach 300 women to try an alternative therapy and will follow their results over five years.

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