Saturday, March 31, 2007

April fool's day

Above: April Fool's Day Joke gone bad. (Cartoon credit) Yes, I know it's tomorrow, April 1st. But, in some parts of the world, it's already April 1st, so there!

I ran into this interesting article on Yahoo news of the top pranks pulled off on April Fool's Day. I haven't heard of all of these, but here are the interesting ones (to me):
-- Sweden in 1962 had only one television channel, which broadcast in black and white. The station's technical expert appeared on the news to announce that thanks to a newly developed technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to receive color pictures by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen. In fact, they had to wait until 1970.

- In 1996, American fast-food chain Taco Bell announced that it had bought Philadelphia's Liberty Bell, a historic symbol of American independence, from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell.

Outraged citizens called to express their anger before Taco Bell revealed the hoax. Then-White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale and said the Lincoln Memorial in Washington had also been sold and was to be renamed the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial after the automotive giant.

-- Burger King, another American fast-food chain, published a full-page advertisement in USA Today in 1998 announcing the introduction of the "Left-Handed Whopper," specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new burger included the same ingredients as the original, but the condiments were rotated 180 degrees. The chain said it received thousands of requests for the new burger, as well as orders for the original "right-handed" version.

-- In 1992, US National Public Radio announced that Richard Nixon was running for president again. His new campaign slogan was, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." They even had clips of Nixon announcing his candidacy. Listeners flooded the show with calls expressing their outrage. Nixon's voice actually turned out to be that of impersonator Rich Little.

-- Noted British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on the radio in 1976 that at 9:47 am, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event, in which Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, would cause a gravitational alignment that would reduce the Earth's gravity. Moore told listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment of the planetary alignment, they would experience a floating sensation. Hundreds of people called in to report feeling the sensation.
I've done my share of practical jokes (the good ones I'll never admit to). But, there's always the standard changing the office furniture while someone's on vacation thing. I mean, nothing close to the level of punk'd, but stuff I thought was amusing. Any funny practical joke stories out there?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Happy Doctor's Day

Very funny at the hospital this morning. I walked into the doctor's lounge, and saw this breakfast set up. Don't get me wrong, it was the same continental breakfast stuff that is seen at every morning meeting, but the table was dressed up a little bit and a sign saying, "Happy Doctor's Day!"

Then, walking around the floors this morning, it was hilarious! People everywhere were snickering, "Happy Doctor's Day!" Hard to know who was geniune, and who had a busy night working and they're waiting to give report and go home to sleep.

But, an interesting start to my day. But, hey, it's Friday, and the weather is beautiful around here today. Of course, it's supposed to get cold and rainy tomorrow for the weekend. But, who cares! It's Friday, baby, and maybe this doctor will be able to cut out of the office early. Well.... A doc can dream, can't he? Have a great weekend everybody!

Salmonella Easter Chicks

Did you know that some people give kids little baby chicks as Easter gifts? (Image credit) I had no idea that this was happening. When I was a kid, I was content with an Easter basket with lots of chocolate and sweets in it. And then, the traditional annual Easter egg hunt. Now, that was a good time!

In this Associated Press article, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the giving of birds to kids, especially for Easter, may carry the danger of salmonella infection. Ew!
"This time of year, when everyone's wanting to give their kid a baby chick or baby duckling, that's when we start to see these outbreaks in people not accustomed to handling farm animals," said Charles Hofacre, a University of Georgia professor of veterinary medicine.

Salmonella is an infection that causes diarrhea, fever and vomiting. The bacteria live in the intestines of chickens and spread through their feces, which can cling to a bird's feet or feathers, even if it looks clean.

Children get sick by touching the birds and then putting their hands in their mouths. Young children are more susceptible than most adults, and those under 5 should not handle baby birds, officials said.
The article goes on to report recent salmonella outbreaks and how some states have passed laws discouraging giving small birds as Easter gifts. Who knew it was so common to give small birds this time of year? I guess I didn't.

So, for those of you out there who observe Easter, think twice before getting that baby chick for that young child in your life -- Better to stick with the Easter bonnet, Easter basket, and Easter candy. You'll be glad you did....

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hummer infatuation

There's nothing in the health headlines that interests me right now. So, I'll talk about this. For the past two weeks, I've kind of been "car sitting." But, of course, what you see above is not a car.

Although I don't know why, I've always been fascinated by the hummer as a production/consumer vehicle. It's completely impractical. I mean, it's huge! It only gets about 14 miles to the gallon. Yet, I've always wanted to drive one.

And, I have for the past two weeks while my friend (my new best friend, HA!) has been out of town on business. She gets back this weekend, when she'll find out that I've only put about a gazillion miles on the thing over the past two weeks.

I'm no car expert, but, to me, it's a nice ride. The color is red, like the picture above, and has black leather seats inside. I've also never experienced satellite radio before. I had no idea that satellite radio has a gazillion stations - but great sound. I could get used to that.

But, after two weeks, I think my infatuation with this vehicle is slowly dwindling. I was very interested at first, but now, I'm looking forward to getting back to my car this weekend. I wonder what this thing can do off-roading? I guess I have a couple of days to find out. HA!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Heart stent unnecessary? Maybe

More news coming out of the American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans. Too bad Dr. Wes is not there to give us the inside scoop (he he, just kidding).

The theory with heart stents is pretty easy to explain to patients. The paradigm has been that symptoms of angina, or chest pain, are caused by a slight blockage in the tiny heart vessles (see above - image from here). So, why not open the vessel up with a heart stent and relieve the chest pain. Simple, right?

In this Associated Press article, researchers have found that in people with stable angina, medication treatment (meaning pills) is just as good as having an angioplasty procedure and having a heart stent placed.
It involved 2,287 patients throughout the U.S. and Canada who had substantial blockages, typically in two arteries, but were medically stable. They had an average of 10 chest pain episodes a week — moderately severe. About 40 percent had a prior heart attack.

All were treated with medicines that improve chest pain and heart and artery health such as aspirin, cholesterol-lowering statins, nitrates, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers. All also were counseled on healthy lifestyles — diet, exercise and smoking cessation. Half of the participants also were assigned to get angioplasty.

After an average of 4 1/2 years, the groups had similar rates of death and heart attack: 211 in the angioplasty group and 202 in the medication group — about 19 percent of each.

After five years, 74 percent of the angioplasty group and 72 percent of the medication group were free of chest pain - "no significant difference," [one of the researchers] said.
The results of this study will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine and will send shockwaves through the world of cardiology. This will be a huge paradigm shift in what is the current thinking.

This will set up a philosophical and academic war between the interventional cardiologist (those that make a lot of their living doing angioplasties and stents) and the cardiologist who do few or no angioplasties. It will also be a business war between the drug makers and the stent makers.

It will come down to this question: When a patient has chest pain, what is the better treatment? Drugs AND stent or Drugs WITHOUT stent? We'll have to see how this plays out....

Now, something I am concerned about is what the press report really passed over very quickly. (Surprised that I'm upset at the press again?) What should be emphasized is that this study relates to patients who are medically stable. Medically stable means not actively having a heart attack or actively having worsening chest pain symptoms right in front of you.

I can see a heart attack patient in the ER tomorrow saying, "I just heard this report saying that an angioplasty and stent are not needed. Plus, there have been a lot of bad press lately about stents anyway. I don't want one."

I want to emphazise that in the emergency situation (meaning heart attack and/or worsening chest pain symptoms) -- Angioplasty and stent placement are not only the mainstay of treatment, they have been shown to save lives. So, interpret these study findings how they were presented -- in medically stable patients -- and don't interpret this as a generalization on angioplasty and stents in general.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dark chocolate saves lives

Well, not necessarily. But, that made a great title for a post, huh? Anyone that knows me knows that I have a weakness for chocolate - M&M's in particular. And, dark chocolate? Well, in moderation, this is the best chocolate of all.

And, now, I have the data to prove it. There was actually a study presented at the American College of Cardiology scientific meeting in New Orleans. In a six week trial, some study subjects were given dark chocolate and some were given placebo. (Reuters).
"In this sample of healthy adults, dark chocolate ingestion over a short period of time was shown to significantly improve (blood vessel) function," said Dr. Valentine Yanchou Njike of Yale Prevention Research Center, a co-investigator of the study.

"While the findings from this study do not suggest that people should start eating more chocolate as part of their daily routine, it does suggest that we pay more attention to how dark chocolate and other flavonoid-rich foods might offer cardiovascular benefits," Njike said.
First of all, where can I sign up for a study like this? (Call me!). And, second, I can finally feel a little less guilty when grabbing for those dark chocolate M&M's. I'm improving my blood vessel function, you know...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Flu Shot Rant: Part Deux

For those of you who have been following this blog since last fall, you know how the issue of flu shots just irks me. For part one of this story, read the first flu shot rant. Now, as the flu season is coming to an end, this post is part two.

In this Associated Press story from March 21, it talks about how 10 million flu shots will need to be destroyed because of the expiration date of June 30th.
Wasted vaccine means lost money for drug companies and one stopped making flu shots because of it — setting the stage for a flu shot shortage in 2004.
Wait a minute. Since when does the press care about drug companies making money? There's this UPI story describing a JAMA study talking about drug companies spending millions of dollars on evil doctors. Don't get me wrong, I myself am not a fan of big pharma, just pointing out the hypocrisy.

Getting back to flu shots, I'm having a difficulty understanding why the June 30th expiration date is chosen for annual flu shots. I thought that it was because of the shelf life, but apparently, chemically, these doses are still good. So, it's not a chemical expiration date. It's a business expiration date.
The June 30 date is mostly to ensure that all old vaccine is gone before new doses come out. "There is some benefit to a system where unused vaccine is discarded even if it hasn't really lost that much potency," said Dr. John Treanor, a vaccine expert at the University of Rochester in New York.

Old vaccine could be a tough sell if one of the strains is not well-matched to what's expected to circulate. "You'd have to tell people next year that the vaccine they got could be inferior," said Dr. Walter Orenstein, a vaccine expert at Emory University.

One more argument for the current system: Straying from a set expiration date for an entire season's vaccine would probably cause a huge headache for those trying to manage vaccine supplies, and for manufacturers trying to calculate the following season's demand, added Dr. Carolyn Bridges of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ok, I'm not an epidemiologist nor an infectious disease specialist, but aren't flu shots manufactured guessing what the flu strains could be? So, if I had some expired flu vaccine on hand that I could give out during the annual initial flu shot shortage, wouldn't a potentially "inferior" vaccine be better than no vaccine at all?
Stockpiling leftover vaccine until new vaccine is available "doesn't sound like an unreasonable thing to be doing," said another vaccine scientist, Dr. Robert Belshe at St. Louis University. After all, usually only one of the three vaccine strains changes — often, only slightly. Twice in the last decade, the recipe didn't change at all, said Alexander Klimov, a CDC flu strain expert.

And three times in the last decade, the vaccine strains recommended for the United States in one winter were identical to what was recommended for the Southern hemisphere the following summer, he said.

Also, several recent studies showed that even poorly matched vaccine can still be highly effective — something to consider amid worries about bird flu and efforts to stockpile vaccine to protect in a pandemic.
Here's just a friendly suggestion for the Food and Drug Administration. Why not do away with the June 30th expiration date for the flu vaccine? We can definitely stop the annual cycle of madness in which people get angry in the fall for not having their flu shot on demand, and the press in the spring bring up the fact that millions of flu shots are wasted.

But, this is the government we're talking about - meaning bureaucracy and the status quo. So, nothing will be done. This means that come this fall, we'll talk about this cycle starting again. And, I'll be here to rant about it.

Grand Rounds

Grand Rounds 3.26 is now up an running at Blog, MD with my blog friend and colleague Sam Blackman, MD. He's a pediatric hematologist-oncologist which, to me, has to be a tough job. I tip my hat to you and your work. Thanks to Dr. Sam for including my post this week...
Dr. Anonymous, apparently more concerned with staying awake than going to sleep, reports on the news that the “pick me up” people feel when drinking that first cup of coffee in the morning may have more to do with stopping withdrawal symptoms than with the stimulant effects of caffeine.
If you don't know what Grand Rounds is, it is a weekly compilation of the best posts from the medical blogosphere that moves to different sites each week. And, who doesn't like reading about medicine and science? Next week, GR moves to Medviews.

Don't forget Pediatric Grand Rounds. Submit to Dr. Rob at Musings of a Distractible Mind. He has a grand total of five submissions as of this posting. So, show Dr. Rob some love and send him your pediatric post today!

Finally, I've been kind of laying low as far as the Grand Rounds thing and blog carnival thing over the past few weeks. I apologize to those hosts I snubbed with my lack of submissions. It wasn't anything personal against the hosts, I felt I wasn't writing anything really worthy of sharing, until recently.

Being posted on Grand Rounds is not a right, it's a privilege. So, I may not submit something every single week. If I think something I write is "grand rounds worthy," I'll submit for consideration. If I'm not happy with my writing (which is what's been happening the past few weeks), I won't submit. There are too many great writers out there in blogland for me to submit utter drivel. Anyway, that's a long explanation.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Macho men heal faster

Remember this song from The Village People? Well, according to a study by the University of Missouri-Columbia, "men who fit the classic Hollywood tough-guy mould may be able to heal more quickly." (
In the study of occupations typically associated with masculinity such as the armed forces, the researchers found there was a correlation between their machismo and their ability to recover from serious injury.

Writing in the American Psychological Association's journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, Professor Glen Good of the MU college of education said there were some interesting conclusions.

"It has long been assumed that men are not as concerned and don't take as good of care of their health," he said, "but what we're seeing here is that the same ideas that led to their injuries may actually encourage their recovery."
What does this mean for me? Well, I guess I should really protect against a potentially fatal wound, like a paper cut. Or, I could achieve my manliness and become someone like The Black Knight. HA!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

I've been tagged by It's Me, T.J. from the dogcatskidslife blog. As TJ remarks, it's being tagged with an award - the one above. I have to also give credit to the original post from The Thinking Blog. What a great idea!
The participation rules are simple:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).
Here is my list of the blogs that make me think (and you're subsequently tagged to continue the meme):

1. My Three Shrinks

2. The Curmudgeon

3. May

4. Dr. Wes

5. Mimi

I wish I could list more, but people would probably get after me for tagging more than five. I bestow to the five blogs above the Thinking Blogger Award. Congratulations and I'm wondering who will be named next.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Skip the Kiss of Life

The term "kiss of life" is taken from a BBC News article I talk about below. For those in the United States, it is better known as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I put the Trump/Rosie picture up there so that you could probably make up a funnier line than I could. HA!

Anyway, according to the American Heart Association, in their Adult Basic Life Support course, the first step is always to assess the airway and breathing. If the person is not found to be breathing, this is what you're supposed to do:
Give 2 rescue breaths, each over 1 second, with enough volume to produce visible chest rise. This recommended 1-second duration to make the chest rise applies to all forms of ventilation during CPR, including mouth-to-mouth and bag-mask ventilation and ventilation through an advanced airway, with and without supplementary oxygen (Class IIa recommendation).

During CPR the purpose of ventilation is to maintain adequate oxygenation, but the optimal tidal volume, respiratory rate, and inspired oxygen concentration to achieve this are not known. The following general recommendations can be made:

1. During the first minutes of VF [ventricular fibrillation] SCA [sudden cardiac arrest], rescue breaths are probably not as important as chest compressions because the oxygen level in the blood remains high for the first several minutes after cardiac arrest. In early cardiac arrest, myocardial and cerebral oxygen delivery is limited more by the diminished blood flow (cardiac output) than a lack of oxygen in the blood. During CPR blood flow is provided by chest compressions. Rescuers must be sure to provide effective chest compressions and minimize any interruption of chest compressions.

2. Both ventilations and compressions are important for victims of prolonged VF SCA, when oxygen in the blood is utilized. Ventilations and compressions are also important for victims of asphyxial arrest, such as children and drowning victims who are hypoxemic at the time of cardiac arrest.

3. During CPR blood flow to the lungs is substantially reduced, so an adequate ventilation-perfusion ratio can be maintained with lower tidal volumes and respiratory rates than normal. Rescuers should not provide hyperventilation (too many breaths or too large a volume). Excessive ventilation is unnecessary and is harmful because it increases intrathoracic pressure, decreases venous return to the heart, and diminishes cardiac output and survival.

4. Avoid delivering breaths that are too large or too forceful. Such breaths are not needed and may cause gastric inflation and its resultant complications.
Now, Japanese researchers published in The Lancet showed that chest-compression-only resuscitation is adequate without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. (BBC news)
Dr Ken Nagao and colleagues at the Surugadai Nihon University Hospital in Tokyo say in these circumstances it would be better for all parties to stick to giving chest compressions alone, which they called cardiac-only resuscitation. They checked their theory by looking at the outcomes of more than 4,000 adult patients who had been helped by bystanders.

They found chest-compression-only resuscitation was the clear winner compared with conventional CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or mouth-to-mouth breathing together with chest compressions).
The Resuscitation Council in the United Kingdom agrees with this statement and has made these changes in their Adult Basic Life Support guidelines:
To aid teaching and learning, the sequence of actions has been simplified. In
some cases, simplification has been based on recently published evidence; in
others there was no evidence that the previous, more complicated, sequence had
any beneficial effect on survival.

There are other changes in the guidelines. In particular, allowance has been
made for the rescuer who is unable or unwilling to perform rescue breathing. It is
well recorded that reluctance to perform mouth-to-mouth ventilation, in spite of
the lack of evidence of risk, inhibits many would-be rescuers from attempting any
form of resuscitation. These guidelines encourage chest compression alone in
such circumstances.
Who's right and who's wrong here? Does it really matter? Is there a "right" way to administer CPR? In this age of evidence based medicine, I'm sure that there will be more studies done to bolster the case of both sides.

I do agree that people these days are less inclinced to perform mouth-to-mouth. I mean, there are some who would rather perform mouth-to-muzzle rescue breathing (just kidding).

If anything else, a news story like this puts CPR in the spotlight. So, whatever you think about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, if you've never been taught the concepts of Basic Life Support, get out there and learn about CPR! You may save a friend or family or even a complete stranger one of these days.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Secret to Quit Smoking

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Some of you out there believe I'm going to tout the latest prescription drug on the market. Others of you are probably thinking I'm going to talk about alternative medicine choices for smoking cessation. (Image credit)

Well, you're both wrong. The secret to stop smoking is simple -- Take A Walk! It's simple. It's natural, and has no side effects. What? Do you think I'm kidding? Do you think I'm out of my mind? (this is possible, ha) But here, I tell the truth.

Described in this Associated Press story, researchers at the University of Exter have found that as little as five minutes of exercise can help smokers quit. The research is published in the medical journal called Addiction.
[Dr. Adrian] Taylor and [his] colleagues reviewed 12 papers looking at the connection between exercise and nicotine deprivation. They focused on exercises that could be done outside a gym, such as walking and isometrics, or the flexing and tensing of muscles. According to their research, just five-minutes of exercise was often enough to help smokers overcome their immediate need for a nicotine fix.

"What's surprising is the strength of the effect," said Dr. Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London. West was not involved in the review. "They found that the acute effects of exercise were as effective as a nicotine patch," he said.
Who would have thunk this? Exercise conquers nicotine cravings? That's an interesting idea. I wonder if it works for food cravings as well. I'll have to try this out myself. Maybe I can put my tennis shoes next to the potato chips to remind myself. Hmmmmm.....

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Heat Wave

For the first time in what seems a long time, the temperature has reached close to 70 degrees around here. Yay! I guess it's finally time to wash all that salt off my car from the wintertime.

I guess I have the guy above to thank for this heat wave. I mean it is global warming that is causing this today, isn't it. Yeah right! I mean, the guy did invent the internet after all. (Sorry, these funny jabs are just satire, you know.)

Anyway, looking ahead at the weather forecast, it's supposed to get back down in the 20's with snow showers by the weekend. So, today is the day to enjoy! Maybe I can even sneak out to the muddy golf course later. We'll see.

Finally, in the ongoing saga of my sitemeter (like anyone cares), here is the latest post from the The Sitemeter Weblog:
We’ve discovered as have many of you that not all the stats categories have updated since March 3rd. We have our tech team digging into the problem. When we have the problem identified and fixed we’ll post a notice here.

s25 is still lagging heavily [that's me]. This is also being addressed.

As always, we’re doing everything we can as quickly as we can. We understand the importance of timely stats, which is why we are also working on the development of a load balanced server system. Until we complete the new backend server configuration and can migrate everyone over we are faced with the reality of trying to manage individual server problems, traffic surges, and other unforeseen issues as they develop. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Even this message does not bother me today. Maybe I can even try to cut out of work early to enjoy what's left of the day. Pshaw! Like that'll happen. A guy can dream, can't he?

Don't forget to check out a relatively new section of the Doctor Anonymous blog: Dr. A's Video of the Day. Currently, it's at the top of my sidebar. I may change this video a few times a day, depending on what I find. But, "video of the moment" didn't sound as cool. Oh well...

The March Madness Meme

Yes, that's right, boys and girls - It's March Madness time again. Don't know what this is about? Well, it's a marketing ploy, that actually works. This refers to the annual national college basketball tournament in the USA. And, I admit that even I get caught up in the hype.

I remember back in college (Oh no! Not another college reference!). The first full day of the tournament (Thursday) is usually a national holiday on college campuses across the country. It's college basketball on TV almost from dawn to dusk (depending in which time zone you live).

Of course, you want to win the entire thing. But, for those who don't know, the last four teams in the tournament, are proud to call themselves, "The Final Four." Ah, memories. Anyway, where's the meme part, you ask? Well in re-living these memories, I thought of a meme that I think wil be interesting....

You can call this, "The March Madness Meme," or, "The Final Four Meme." Here it is: Name four colleges/universities. That's it! Isn't that simple?

It can be your Final Four teams. It can be a college or university that you went to or are going to. It can be a school you would have wanted to attend and why. This meme is pretty flexible. Without further ado, here's my list:

THE Ohio State University
: My parents told me that I would flunk of school and never get into medical school if I went here. And, they were probably right. I would have loved to go there, though.

University of Notre Dame
: I know Ms. Emergiblog likes this choice! I took a tour of the campus during football season there -- what a great atmosphere! What can I say, I had twelve years of Catholic school education, and I had a lot of friends going there. Oh well, I guess, was not meant to be.

University of Santo Tomas
(Philippines): I don't know how good their basketball team is but this is where my father went to school. Now, that would have been interesting to see my father as a college student.

Georgetown University: I dunno why this choice. I think I just wanted to be in the movie St. Elmo's Fire. Yes, a closet Brat Pack fan. All those movies were classic 80's movies - Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, etc.

That's the meme. Have fun with it. I'm wondering how many schools around the world people will name. I'm not tagging anyone. If you feel like taking up this challenge, that's great. If not, that's fine, too. Finally, GO BUCKS!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hospitals can hear you now

Agent 86 would be proud of the following news story. Depending on your age out there in blogland, you'll understand this reference to a great television show from the 1960s.

Anyway, everytime you walk into a hospital, there's a sign at the front door saying "No cell phones." To be honest, everyday I go into my hospital, everybody from docs, to nurses, to staff, to patients, to families -- I see cell phones used all over the hospital. But, I digress...

Hospital policies across the country forbid mobile phones from being used citing possible interference with electronic equipment. A recent study done at the Mayo Clinic states that normal use of cellular phones does NOT cause interference with "patient care equipment." (Reuters)
Dr. David Hayes and colleagues said their tests suggest the ban is unmerited. They tested cell phones using two different technologies from different carriers, switching them on near 192 different medical devices. During 300 tests run over five months, they reported no trouble with the equipment.
So, I'm sure that everyone out there will now take this study to your medical executive committee and/or favorite administrator to get this cell phone ban lifted, right? Sure, I'll get right on that.

Something interesting, as a kind of unintended consequence of all this, is the use of camera phones within the hospital. I'm not so concerned about the phone part as I am the camera part.

I know what you're thinking, "Well, Dr. A, what do hospitals have to hide?" That's not it. I've talked about the litigious society that we live in now. And, people (especially the press) like to take things out of context.

I'm not just talking about taking images of docs, but any person in the hospital who cares for patients - like nurses, aides, physical therapy, techs, dietary - and the list goes on. What would be the full implications if camera phones were actually permitted in hospitals?

The bottom line is this. As far as their use in the hospital, cellular phones have as much chance of interfering with hospital equipment as they do of interfering with airplane equipment on takeoff and landing. HA! Can you hear me now? YES!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sitemeter woes

Does anyone remember this movie? I distinctly remember this movie because it was right around the time I started college. And, a bunch of us pre-med nerds bought tickets the weekend it opened.

Personally, I wanted to see Julia Roberts as a medical student (How You Doin?) and dreamed of her being in my future med school class (Ahhhhhh....). For those who haven't seen the movie, in a word, it was, "Eh..." Not great, but not bad either. Remember, this was a few years before television's ER and the current string of hit medical TV shows.

Anyway, what's this have to do with sitemeter? Probably absolutely nothing! But, this week, I've been pulling out my hair because my sitemeter has shown ZERO (meaning flatline) for days. I thought that I was doing something wrong. Or, would this be my first complaint using the new blogger?

However, in doing some research on this, I find that the problem is on the end of sitemeter and not me and not blogger. Whew! That's a relief. Here's the quote from the sitemeter blog:
s25 - Update
We are aware of delays and lag on s25 and are doing are best to resolve it. In this case we had a particular site that has been running a promotion, nearly quadrupling their traffic. We’re working on relocation this site to another server. We expect to see the lag dissipate over the weekend. Thanks, The Sitemeter Team
That makes me feel better. I was getting concerned when I kept seeing a big fat ZERO on my stats and seeing this sentence, "The statistics for visitors from the last 3896 minutes are not yet available." I wonder how big that number will get until the problem is fixed. We'll see....

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Myth of Morning Coffee

You might want to sit down for this caffeine story. No, this is not about the entrepreneur in India who is trying to steal the name of Starbucks for his own chain of coffee shops. This is a serious story! LOL.

Question: How many people out there in blogland swear by their first cup of coffee in the morning? You absolutely cannot live without your first cup of coffee (or cappuccino or espresso or latte or whatever). For me, my caffeine of choice is above.

Researchers at the University of Bristol are reporting that coffee does NOT boost you in the morning. (BBC News) Actually, coffee in the morning helps ease caffeine withdrawl symptoms. Withdrawl? Coffee is a drug? Pshaw!
Professor Peter Rogers, a biological psychologist who led the research, told the BBC: "We do feel a boost from caffeine in the morning, but that's probably due to a reversal of the withdrawal symptoms. That alertness you feel is you getting back to normal, rather than to an above normal level.
First off, a "biological psychologist?" What's up with that? Second, what you feel is "getting back to normal?" What's normal? Call me in denial, but I believe that this study is complete bunk. Caffeine rules! Long live Diet Coke and caffeine. I'm with the pro-coffee activist group on this one.
Zoe Wheeldon, of the British Coffee Association, said the research was interesting. But she added: "There are two sides to the debate and a wealth of scientific evidence suggests that moderate coffee consumption of four to five cups per day is perfectly safe for the general population and does have a beneficial effect on alertness and performance even in regular coffee drinkers."
Yeah! You tell 'em, Zoe. Finally, there are other people out there who see a different use of caffeine - Specifically the combination of Diet Coke, Mentos, and David Letterman.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I Won the Mega Millions Jackpot!

Cha-Ching, baby! I'm on easy street. I'm quitting my job and moving to Hawaii to live my dream of becoming a Magnum P.I. wannabe! Gimme a Ferrari. Gimme a private jet. Gimme my own Dr. A private golf course. Yes!

Actually, not. To be honest, I didn't even play. There was a huge collection at the office today. Sometimes, I wonder, what if the office staff did win? Would everyone quit their jobs tomorrow? Maybe for a piece of the record $370 million dollars, they would. Who knows?

I always remember those stories about a group from work somewhere who hit it big, only to just spend it all. Or, the greed degenerates into eventual lawsuits among "friends." Or, the winners being driven into solitude because the winner's private life disappears. You never know who comes out of the woodwork to claim that they are your relative and/or friend, "Where's my piece of your $370 million!"

So, the waiting game begins. With a record jackpot like this, it's unlikely that it will be one person. It's usually a group of co-workers who grouped their money together to buy a bazillion tickets. These people will become instantly famous, and we'll see how they handle their fame and fortune.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Charmed Heart

Too often, we hear about climbers who are lost as they try to reach the top of a mountain somewhere. Here's a story where a climber not only found the summit, but also is living out a dream.

Last week, this AP story reported that Kelly Perkins and her husband Craig, recently scaled a peak in the Andes mountains. Her other conquests include the Matterhorn, Mount Fuji and Mount Kilimanjaro. What's so unusual about these feats? She did it with another person's heart beating in her chest.
Perkins grew up around Lake Tahoe, Calif., acquiring a love for the outdoors that led to annual backpacking trips with friends. Her zeal for mountain trekking and climbing only increased after her transplant on Nov. 20, 1995. Any fears about stressing her new heart were overwhelmed by a desire to rebuild her strength.

Some 3 1/2 years earlier, she had been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy — a disease in which heart muscle becomes inflamed — which doctors blamed on a virus. For more than three years, she and her husband shuttled in and out of hospitals seeking a donor heart.
I was also able to find their website simply titled The site shares the stories about their climbs and has amazing pictures, like the one above. Let tell you, this is very inspirational stuff.
The Andes adventure was all free climbing, using ropes and protective gear only for safety's sake as she moved up the rock under her own power, using only hands and feet to find natural holds in the crevices of the rock.

She dubbed the route the "Charmed Heart" as she led her team up one of several unnamed peaks in the remote Cajon de Arenales region near Argentina's border with Chile, more than 650 miles west of Buenos Aires.

Craig Perkins, who has given his wife a gold charm for every major mountain climbed since her transplant, gave her another atop the "Charmed Heart" route — this one of a woman mountaineer leaping for a peak and grabbing it by one hand. A tiny sparkling ruby represents her heart.
Thanks Kelly and Craig for sharing your story. I know a lot of my patients and friends who will love to hear your story. Keep climbing as many mountains as you can! I'm glad that you didn't let anyone or anything get in the way of your dream.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What flu epidemic?

"Hey Doc, how's that flu thing going on this time of year," a patient asked me this week. "I mean, you practically made me get a flu shot last fall," he continued in a joking manner. I smiled (kind of).

The press really hasn't said anything about the human flu season. There are countless stories about bird flu, like, how it's in other parts of the world, or, how the United States is no way near ready for a bird flu pandemic.

So, being curious, I checked out the CDC (human) flu website. In case you didn't know, they have a week by week report during the flu season. And, I was surprised from their latest data which is from the week of February 17.

From a epidemiology standpoint, stating there is an "epidemic" occurring is misleading (but makes for a great post title). A small map is above, and in the nation's midsection, where the color is red, there is "widespread" influenza occurring. Here is the summary from the CDC flu website:
During week 7 (February 11 - February 17, 2007), influenza activity continued to increase in the United States... Twenty-four states reported widespread influenza activity; 14 states and New York City reported regional influenza activity; 10 states and the District of Columbia reported local influenza activity; and two states reported sporadic influenza activity. The reporting of widespread or regional influenza activity increased from 33 states for week 6 to 38 states for week 7. The percent of deaths due to pneumonia and influenza remained below baseline level.
The last sentence above is probably why there has been no press coverage on this story, yet. My state is in the "local activity" category, but almost surrounded by the widespread states. So, we'll have to see what happens.

My prediction is that when and if the "weather" story starts to be less newsworthy, then the press will start to pick up on the "widespread flu" story. By the way, as I tell all my patients, it's never too late to get that flu shot. That is, if you can still find one in March.