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Putting Your Heart Into The Super Bowl

Sports fans may literally live and die on their team’s victories, according to researchers who examined cardiac mortality rates after the home team won and lost the Super Bowl.

Total and cardiac mortality rates in Los Angeles County increased after the football team’s 1980 Super Bowl loss but overall mortality fell after the 1984 the team’s Super Bowl win, researchers concluded from a review of death certificates reported in Clinical Cardiology.

First, authors gave a clinical review. Stress causes a cardiac cascade. The sympathetic nervous system increases and releases catecholamines. This triggers a rise in heart rate and blood pressure, and ventricular contractility increases oxygen demand, causing blood the sheer against and fracture atherosclerotic plaque, the authors explained. Stimulation of alpha receptors in the vasculature further constrict coronary vessels, increasing oxygen demand while limiting oxygen supply to the heart.

Next, they gave a sporting review. Los Angeles has played twice in the Super Bowl, the first time losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers (who play in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, incidentally) in 1980. The Los Angeles Rams, as they were known then, were a long-time hometown team and played the game in nearby Pasadena, Calif. “This game was high intensity,” wrote the authors, “with seven lead changes before Los Angeles lost a fourth-quarter lead and the game.”

Later, a new football franchise arrived in town, the Los Angeles Raiders. In 1984 the Los Angeles Raiders traveled to Tampa, Fla. to beat the Washington Redskins in a more mundane affair.

Now, the review of findings. Researchers combed death certificates based on age, race and sex to compare mortality rates for Super Bowl-related days with non-Super Bowl days and created regression models predicting daily death rates per 100,000.

Researchers reviewed death certificates for the six weeks surrounding the Super Bowls from 1980 to 1988. Data included total number of deaths and cardiac-related deaths. Figures were broken down by sex, race and age less than or greater than 65 years for each of the two Super Bowls. To remove the impact of the known peak in total and cardiac death rates around the winter holidays, all analyses excluded data from Jan. 1 to Jan. 14.

After the Super Bowl loss, daily death rates increased for both men and women in Los Angeles County. Seniors had a larger absolute increase in all cause mortality during the Super Bowl loss days compared with the younger population, “with significant interaction between age and Super Bowl loss-variable for all-cause and cardiac-related mortality,” the authors wrote. Whites and Hispanics had increased death rates on Super Bowl loss days.

“Based on our linear regression analysis, our study suggested that Los Angeles’ 1980 Super Bowl loss increased total and cardiac deaths in both men and women and triggered more deaths in older patients compared with younger patients,” the authors concluded. “Conversely, the 1984 Super Bowl win showed a trend for reduction of death rates, slightly better in older than younger patients and in women more than men.”

Super Bowl foodInterestingly, the authors didn’t consider one important co-variable: Super Bowl food. It’s been suggested that big holiday dinners may also cause a spike in heart attacks, so it stands to reason that Super Bowl menus would play at least some part.

This year’s Super Bowl pits the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Green Bay Packers. Neither team has a rich history of fruits and vegetables, and the likely game-day offerings will likely feature bratwurst and cheese or golabki and pierogies.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*


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Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

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