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Reducing The Use Of CT Scans In Children

Well, this is satisfying. Over the years, in our ER we have mirrored the nationwide trend and have significantly increased the utilization of CT scans across the board. The reasons are manifold. Some cite malpractice risks, and indeed in our large group we have had one lawsuit for a pediatric head injury and another for a missed appendicitis which probably did contribute. But, in my opinion, there have been many other drivers of the increased use. For one, CTs have gotten way, way better over the last 15 years, which quite simply has made them a better diagnostic tool. They’ve also gotten way faster. As the facilities have invested in CT scanners, they have increased their capacity and increased their staffing, so the barriers to their use have rapidly diminished. I am so old that I remember when ordering a CT involved calling a radiologist and getting their approval! No more of that, I can tell you.

But a couple of years ago, we really started paying attention (perhaps belatedly) to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

Article Reviews The Effectiveness Of NSAIDs For Arthritis Pain

Recently I gave in and went to see a rheumatologist after more than 3 months of intense morning stiffness and swelling of my hands (especially around the PIPs and MCPs) and wrists which improved during the day but never went away.  It had gotten to the point where I could no longer open small lid jars (decreased strength), do my push-ups or pull ups (pain and limited wrist motion), and OTC products (Tylenol, Advil, etc) weren’t working.  I can’t take Aleve due to the severe esophagitis it induces.  I didn’t want to write a prescription for my self-diagnosed (without) lab arthritis.

BTW, all the lab work came back negative with the exception of a slightly elevated sed rate and very weakly positive ANA.  The rheumatologist was impressed with the swelling, pain, and stiffness and was as surprised as I by the normal lab work.  He thinks (and I agree) that I am in the early presentation of rheumatoid arthritis.  He wrote a prescription for Celebrex and told me to continue with the Zantac I was already taking (thanks to the Aleve).  The Celebrex is helping.

So I was happy to see this article (full reference below) come across by twitter feed.  H/T to @marcuspainmd: Useful review of NSAIDs effects & side effects for arthritis pain: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

In The ER With Abdominal Pain? Lower Your Diagnosis Expectations

Abdominal pain is the bane of many emergency physicians. Recently, I wrote how CT scans are on the rise in the ER. Much of those scans look for potential causes of abdominal pain.

In an essay from Time, Dr. Zachary Meisel discusses why abdominal pain, in his words, is the doctor’s “booby prize.” And when you consider that there are 7 million visits annually by people who report abdominal pain, that’s a lot of proverbial prizes.

One reason is the myriad of causes that lead bring a patient to the hospital clutching his abdomen. It can range from something as relatively benign as viral gastroenteritis where a patient be safely discharged home, to any number of “acute” abdominal problems necessitating surgery.

But more importantly, we need to consider how limited doctors actually are in the ER. Consider the ubiquitous CT scan, which is being ordered with increasing regularity:

The pros: CT scans are readily available, able to look at every organ in the abdomen and pelvis, and very good for ruling out many of the immediately life-threatening causes of belly pain. CT scans can also reduce the need for exploratory surgery. The cons: Often, CTs can’t diagnose the actual cause of ER patients’ abdominal pain. Worse, CTs deliver significant doses of radiation to a patient’s abdomen and pelvis (equivalent to between 100 and 250 chest X-rays). Over a lifetime, patients who receive two or three abdominal CT scans are exposed to more radiation than many Hiroshima survivors.

Add that to the fact that patients expect a definitive diagnosis when visiting the hospital — one that doctors can’t always give when it comes to abdominal pain. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Summer Food Safety: How To Keep Your BBQ Guests Alive

Legendary soul chef Charles Gabriel talks with Dr. Jon LaPook about food safety during the summer grilling months.

Watch CBS News Videos Online 

How To Survive The Summer Barbecue 

My mother was very proud of the fact that none of her four children ever became sick from her cooking. While it’s true she may have erred on the side of overcooking the turkey, being spared food poisoning is yet another in the long list of gifts from my mom.

Every year, about 76 million Americans develop illness from food, more than 325,000 are hospitalized, and about 5,000 die. The most common cause is contamination with bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, and E. coli — though other organisms such as viruses and protozoa can also be culprits. As summer begins, I thought it would be a good time to review some basic tips about food safety. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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