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Doctors Use ECMO To Save A 19-Year-Old’s Life

Robert Loftus

Robert Loftus

On August 5, 2011,19-year-old Robert Loftus tripped while catching the game-winning touchdown pass in a football game with friends. He broke his leg — both his tibia and fibula — and was rushed to the ER at Hudson Valley Hospital Center. On the morning of the 6th, he was visited by his orthopedist, Dr. Steven Small, and surgery to place a rod in his broken leg was scheduled for 3 pm that day. Just as the operation was beginning, however, the anesthesiologist was alarmed to find that Robert’s lungs were dangerously filling with fluid. The surgery was called off, and while still in the OR, Robert was put on a mechanical ventilator.

Robert had developed a severe case of ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome; his lungs were failing. After four days on the ventilator, Robert’s breathing was not improving; on the contrary, it was rapidly getting worse. Recognizing the severity of his patient’s condition, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Columbia University Department of Surgery Blog*

Medical Device Used To Treat A Leaky Mitral Valve Has Been Recalled

As of May 2011, performance of MitraClip, a minimally invasive procedure to correct mitral regurgitation, has been voluntarily suspended due to a problem with its catheter delivery system.

Since 2008, about 3000 patients with severe mitral valve regurgitation (leaky mitral valve) have been treated with MitraClip rather than open surgery. In this minimally invasive procedure a small clip is delivered via catheter to the heart, where it is carefully placed over the center of the mitral valve. This non-surgical option has been an important alternative for patients who may be unable to withstand open surgery. MitraClip has been advanced and investigated at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia since the first EVEREST trial in 2004, and is currently available throughout the U.S. as part of the EVEREST II trial. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Columbia University Department of Surgery Blog*

Warning: Dr. Mehmet Oz Is Not A Trustworthy Source Of Health Information

When I was in medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Mehmet Oz had the reputation of being a competent and caring cardiothoracic surgeon whose research interest was reducing preoperative stress. I remember hearing about a music study of his in which soothing melodies reduced blood pressure and heart rates in patients preparing for heart surgery. I felt pleased that a surgeon was leading the charge in improving patients’ O.R. experiences, and had no inkling that 15 years later Dr. Oz would be America’s chief snake oil salesman.

I have been slow to criticize Dr. Oz on my blog because of a sense of loyalty to my medical school, however yesterday he crossed the line when things got personal – a friend of mine was negatively impacted by his misinformation to the point where her life was endangered. From watching his TV show, she was led to believe that she would put herself at risk for thyroid cancer if she got a mammogram. Several of her relatives have had breast cancer, and she should be particularly vigilant in her screening efforts. However, because Dr. Oz said that mammograms may themselves cause cancer, she opted out of appropriate screening.

My colleague Dr. David Gorski at Science Based Medicine has done an excellent job of documenting Dr. Oz’s almost Charlie Sheen-like career descent. Although he began his work as (presumably) a science-respecting surgeon, he now spends a lot of his time hosting a TV show that features faith healers, anti-vaccinationists, and psychics.

But how does the average lay person know how to evaluate Dr. Oz’s health claims? When Oprah’s network promotes him as “America’s physician” the platform itself offers him credibility, and a reach that can damage and misinform millions like my friend. I have a feeling that many of my peers at Columbia are concerned about Dr. Oz’s promotion of quackery, but once they’ve invested in his brand for so long, it’s easier to turn a blind eye to his nuttiness than to oust him from his academic positions. At what point is a celebrity doctor doing more harm than good to an institution’s reputation? Is he now “too big to fail?”

But back to my main point – dear readers if you watch Dr. Oz and think that he’s a credible source of health information, please be aware that much of what he says is inaccurate, exaggerated, and based on mystical belief systems. Please don’t act on his advice without checking with your own physician first.

Sadly, good science doesn’t always make good television. But the truth can make you well. Be warned that you are unlikely to find the truth consistently on the Dr. Oz show.

Music Goes iUtero

Music In UteroThe new Ritmo Advanced Pregnancy Sound System from the Nuvo Group of Columbia, South Carolina, gives an interesting twist to “In Utero,” the title of the famous Nirvana album.

“Research in human fetal development shows that babies exposed to music while in-utero display advanced intelligence, coordination, and learning abilities,” says the product website. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

What You Should Know About Stem Cell Research

Camouflaged in the politics, controversy, and hype surrounding stem cells have been two stunning and unexpected dividends: the ability to study diseases in a petrie dish and a new way to think about cancer. This is separate from the most well-publicized stem cell story: the potential of embryonic stem cells to morph into any cell in the body and replace injured or defective cells — for example in diabetes, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injury.

Human embryonic stem cells (HES cells) are collected from unused embryos created by in-vitro fertilization. About two years ago, scientists figured out a way to turn ordinary skin cells into stem cells. This was a huge deal.  These cells — called “induced pluripotents stem cells” (IPS cells) — are not identical to HES cells and may not be quite as nimble in morphing into other cells. But they are electrifying the field because diseases can now be studied outside the body – in a petrie dish. For example, researchers have taken skin from patients with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), turned them into stem cells, then turned the stem cells into the kind of nerve cells (motor neurons) damaged in the disease. 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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