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Should New Mothers Leave The Hospital With Birth Control?

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It depends on the method and whether the mother plans to breast feed.  Ideally, it is recommended that women abstain from sexual relations for at least 4 to 6 weeks after having a baby to reduce the risk of developing vaginal infections and of course, becoming pregnant.

Pregnant women have an increased risk of developing blood clots because of hormonal changes.  This is commonly referred to as a hypercoagulable state.  Birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin (aka combination pills) are not recommended for the first 42 days after the delivery because they increase the risk of blood clots in the legs (Deep Venous Thrombosis, aka DVT) and also decrease breast milk production. The vaginal ring and patch are also not recommended. However, birth control pills that only contain progestin are safe to take immediately after delivery because they don’t increase the risk of developing blood clots nor do they reduce the amount of breast milk production. The Depo- Provera injection may also be given as well because it is a progestin-only product. What women are at increased risk for developing a DVT? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

The Perspective Of The Clinical Trial That You Need To Know

There are big companies like Quintiles that run clinical trials around the world. There are local clinics that specialize in clinical trials and make a lot of money at it. There are, of course, pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers who depend upon the results to gain marketing approval for new products. People in all those groups know a lot about trials.

But the perspective that counts is the view from you and me – patients. Most of us do not enroll in clinical trials. We don’t want to get too up close and personal with anything “experimental.” And often our doctors never tell us about available trials anyway since it can be a lot of paperwork for them. Given that most people don’t enroll in trials and new science is delayed because of it and also because most people in trials are not journalists, I thought I’d put hunt and peck to the computer keyboard and speak out about trials. I am especially motivated because I have participated twice. The first one, a leukemia trial in 2000, I believe, saved my life. And I enrolled in a second one, studying a new drug for clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) just a week and a half ago.

I enrolled in the DVT trial because 1) the first one worked for me and 2) I crow all the time about how patients should always consider being in a trial as a treatment option. I had to put up or shut up. So I signed on the dotted line.

This particular trial, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

The Best Time To Be Treated For A DVT

You know I am a cancer survivor – 15 years down the road from a leukemia diagnosis and enjoying a 10 year remission. So whenever something seems weird about my health it’s cancer coming back, right? Wrong! Just how wrong was proven last night. I am writing this from my hospital bed in Seattle.

The first symptom of a possible problem came three days ago when I had soreness in my right calf. A pulled muscle? Maybe. But I had not noticed straining it. Back at the gym the next day I had soreness again but thought it was no big deal. Last night it was worse. It hurt some to walk. I got home and, after my wife and son were asleep, got ready for bed. I had a slight fever and then noticed the right calf was not only sore, but swollen and warm. Very strange. I’d never seen that before.

Trying not to be stupid I called the 24-hour consulting nurse. She immediately began to focus on deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a worrisome condition that affects about two million Americans a year and can lead to a life threatening situation. She had a doctor call me. Normally those doctors would rather make a house call then send you to the more costly emergency room. But not this time. “Dr. Steve” urged me to go to the ER rather than let a DVT progress and endanger my life. An ultrasound exam would determine if it was really a DVT. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

5 Avoidable Air Travel Health Risks

For those of you planning air travel to your next medical conference (and ACP Internist isn’t too shameless to plug Internal Medicine 2011 — we hope to see you there), TIME reports that there are five health risks that are rare yet have recently happened. Tips on avoiding these maladies include:

E. Coli and MRSA on the tray table. Microbiologists found these two everywhere when they swabbed down flights. Bring your own disinfecting wipes.

Bedbugs in the seat. British Airways fumigated two planes after a passenger posted pictures online about her experience. Wrap clothes in plastic and wash them.

Sick seatmates. Everyone has experienced (or been) this person. Wash your hands.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Tennis star Serena Williams experienced a pulmonary embolism, possibly related to recent foot surgery. But DVT can happen to anyone restrained to a cramped position for long periods of time. Move around in-flight (but not during the beverage service, of course.)

Dehydration. Dry cabin air may make it more difficult to fight off infections. Drink more water.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Pulmonary Embolism: If It Can Strike Serena Williams, It Can Ace Anyone

News that tennis star Serena Williams was treated for a blood clot in her lungs is shining the spotlight on a frightfully overlooked condition that can affect anyone — even a trained athlete who stays fit for a living.

Williams had a pulmonary embolism. That’s doctor speak for a blood clot that originally formed in the legs or elsewhere in the body but that eventually broke away, traveled through the bloodstream, and got stuck in a major artery feeding the lungs. (To read more about pulmonary embolism, check out this article from the Harvard Heart Letter.) Pulmonary embolism is serious trouble because it can prevent the lungs from oxygenating blood — about one in 12 people who have one die from it.

“No one is immune from pulmonary embolism, not even super athletes,” says Dr. Samuel Z. Goldhaber, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the country’s leading experts in this clotting disorder.

Pulmonary embolism tends to happen among people who have recently had surgery, been injured, or been confined to bed rest for some time. It can also strike after long-haul flights.

Signs of a PE

How do you know if you’re experiencing a pulmonary embolism? The most common symptoms include shortness of breath when you aren’t exerting yourself, along with chest pain and coughing up blood. If you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. Other worrisome signs include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Clammy or bluish skin
  • Light-headedness
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

The tennis star’s pulmonary embolism could have been the result of the perfect storm. After having a cast removed from a foot she cut at Wimbledon, Williams flew from New York to Los Angeles. It was in LA, after an appearance at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday, that she underwent emergency treatment at Cedars Sinai Hospital for a blood clot in her lungs.

A call to action by the U.S. Surgeon General says that pulmonary embolism and a related condition — deep-vein thrombosis — affect an estimated 350,000 to 600,000 Americans each year. Together, they account for somewhere between 100,000 and 180,000 deaths each year.

To learn more about pulmonary embolism, check out this information from the North American Thrombosis Forum.

- P.J. Skerrett, Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

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Latest Book Reviews

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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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