Peripheral artery disease not always properly dealt with

Only half of people with peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition where blood vessels in the arms and legs become clogged with cholesterol, are appropriately diagnosed and treated.

Kerry Stewart, EdD, Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at Johns Hopkins and President of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, said too few patients with PAD were exercising and too few physicians were advising patients with the condition to walk.

PAD affects eight million adults in the US and five per cent of people aged over 50. It is characterised by pain, aching or fatigue in the leg muscles. Walking is one of the most effective therapies, Stewart said. "Patients who exercise regularly for at least three months have seen substantial increases in the distance they can walk without painful symptoms."

Antioxidants no help in lowering cholesterol

New research has found that antioxidants could be harmful to people taking drugs to lower their cholesterol.

For the past decade doctors have recommended vitamin supplements as one way to help prevent heart disease, but there is now evidence to suggest they could actually make things worse for people with heart problems.

The study in the US tracked more than 150 patients with coronary artery disease for one year. They underwent treatment involving cholesterol-lowering drugs, antioxidant vitamin supplements or a combination of both.

Those taking the cholesterol-lowering drug recorded a rise in HDL levels as expected, but when the drug was combined with antioxi-dants, the beneficial effects were halted. Patients who only took the antioxidant supplements also found they did not experience any change in their cholesterol levels.

In fact, the cholesterol-lowering drugs raised HDL-2 levels by more than 40 per cent, but again there was no increase when the antioxidants were added to them.

Scientists concluded that even though antioxidants can help reduce oxidation of LDL, they are detrimental to the production of HDL-2.

Pregnant women are not told of epilepsy drug risk

A consumer group in the UK has called for more warnings about the possible defects resulting from taking epilepsy drugs during pregnancy.

Health Which?, a magazine of the Consumers’ Association, said women should receive better counselling about the risk of side effects. Calls were also made for better labelling of the drugs.

The group stressed that it was vital women prescribed epilepsy drugs should continue to take them, but added that they also had the right to know of the possible side effects.

Some experts believe the link between malformations and anti-epileptic drugs is a major problem and have labelled the condition foetal anticonvulsant syndrome, but the study went as far as to say some doctors were not even aware of the side effects of some anticonvulsant treatments.

Scientists break through in periodontitis battle

Scientists in the United States believe they have ained a breakthrough in the battle against periodontitis.

The researchers in Washington have sequenced the genome of a bacterium believed to play a major part in causing gum disease.

The porphyromonas gingivalis bacterium is the first microbe that causes oral disease to be sequenced, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. It is hoped the finding will lead to better preventative measures being taken in the fight against the disease.

Rare surgery carried out

Surgeons in India have performed a rare surgical procedure on a patient in Bangalore.

Doctors at the Manipal Heart Foundation (MHF) carried out the Rastelli operation on a 27-year-old patient. This type of surgery on someone so young is almost unheard of.

The patient suffered from a double outlet right ventricle, plus a ventricular septal defect and pulmonary stenosis.

The Rastelli operation involved diverting purified blood from the left ventricle to the aorta via an artificial material placed inside the heart to close the hole, which was responsible for mixing the pure and impure blood.

The patient was able to breathe normally again after the operation. He had been sick since the age of three months.

Intensive care patients could be in danger of developing psychological problems

Psychologists in the UK claim patients recovering from life-threatening illnesses often have a psychological battle to win as well.

A study in the British Medical Journal of Medical Psychology reported that up to 20 per cent of people in intensive care develop psychological problems.

The trauma of knowing they nearly died can often be massive and patients can develop behavioural problems, such as becoming more aggressive or refusing to comply with treatments being given to them. Others become more depressed and reserved.

One of the main causes of Intensive Care Syndrome (ICU), according to the report, is the fact that many ICUs have no windows, so patients lose their sense of night and day, which can cause sleep disturbance.

The report states that the psychological needs of patients are often overlooked because doctors are too busy. One of the solutions could be to have a clinical psychologist on hand.

Resistant bacteria can be identified in TB cases

British scientists have developed a way to spot dangerous TB bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.

The number of cases involving certain bacteria being resistant to Isoniazid or Rifampicin is said to be growing throughout the world.

Researchers at the Public Health Laboratory claim they can now check the genetic profile of bacteria to see if it has the capability of fighting drugs.

It would normally take up to two weeks to check bacteria for resistance, but now scientists claim this need only take two days using the method developed by the PHL.

The PHL tests, which involve looking at small sections of a bacterium’s DNA genes, correctly identified 75 per cent of Isoniazid-resistant isolates.

Scientists believe the results are a major breakthrough in this field.

Neurosurgeons to be assisted by robots

Robots are set to give neuro-surgeons a helping hand during complex operations.

The PathFinder system has been under development in the UK for several years, but now scientists believe it can at last start to play an important role in surgery.

The robot can accurately guide instruments to the area of the brain the surgeon wishes to operate on. This prevents any damage to healthy tissues, which is an obvious risk when a human hand has to go deep into the brain in search of the problem area.

In some cases, the risk of collateral damage is so high, surgeons are unable to operate.

The PathFinder is pro-grammed to hit a target marked on the patient’s scan. Once a tiny hole is made in the skull, the robot moves the instrument towards the target.

It is hoped the device can be used to improve surgical techniques in the fields of cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and epilepsy.

Neurosurgeons at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham are expected to be the first to use the PathFinder system.

Using television drama to highlight health issues

Television drama is being used to create better health awareness in various parts of the world.

A team of scriptwriters, directors and producers are currently creating a 13-part drama to be screened in Uganda that will specifically portray young adults making healthy decisions about family planning, raising children and preventing diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The drama is just one of many growing examples of the practice of using mass entertainment as a vehicle for delivering public health messages.

Health experts, who are working with the script-writers to ensure the messages being portrayed are accurate, believe people in certain countries throughout the world learn more through television than any other medium.

Other recent television programmes specifically made to get across a health message include a variety show in Jordan, two soap operas in Bangladesh and a dramatic serial in Pakistan.

Radical hip replacement surgery speeds recovery time

Surgeons in the US have come up with a new and quicker way to perform hip replacement surgery.

The innovative surgery means patients can sometimes leave hospital within 12 hours of the operation, rather than having to stay there for the normal four or five days.

The surgery, being performed in North America, involves slipping in the artificial joint through two small incisions, instead of via the normal 12-inch slice.

The artificial hip is no different to the ones normally used by surgeons, but the saws, drills and other equipment used in the operation have been redesigned to be able to operate in small spaces.

Many patients have felt so good after the surgery, they have asked to be discharged on the same day as the operation itself.

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