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Latest Posts

Strokes Are Quite Common In Pregnant Women: How Can They Be Prevented?

According to CDC, there has been a 54 percent increase in the number of pregnant women who’ve had strokes in 1995 to 1996 and in 2005 to 2006. While this may surprise some researchers, it certainly would not surprise clinicians who take care of pregnant women who have risk factors such as obesity, chronic hypertension or a lack of prenatal care. Ten percent of strokes occur in the first trimester, 40 percent during the second trimester and more than fifty percent occur during the post partum period and after the patient has been discharged home. Hypertension was the cause of one-third of stroke victims during pregnancy and fifty percent in the post partum period. Hypertension accounted for one-third of stroke cases during pregnancy and fifty percent in the post partum period. Many stroke cases might be prevented if blood pressure problems were treated appropriately during pregnancy.

Pregnant women who have high blood pressure during the first trimester are treated with medication and are classified as having chronic hypertension. The problem occurs when Read more »

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

What Is The Most Costly Healthcare Expenditure?

The National Institute for Healthcare Management Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on healthcare. The foundation just published an excellent report on the distribution of  healthcare costs in the population.

The results indicate that reducing healthcare cost is all about reducing and managing chronic diseases.

U.S. healthcare spending has sharply increased between 2005 and 2009 by 23 percent from $2 trillion to $2.5 trillion per year.

This is a result of a combination of factors. Chief among them is the increasing incidence of obesity.

Who spends the money? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Repairing the Healthcare System*

Do You Know What Metabolic Syndrome Is?

People with metabolic syndrome are twice as likely to develop heart disease, and five times as likely to develop diabetes, as those who don’t have metabolic syndrome. But many people are not yet familiar with this relatively new term. Do you know what metabolic syndrome is?

OECD Country Populations with a BMI > 30 (1996-200

OECD Country Populations with a BMI > 30 (1996-2003)

Metabolic syndrome is the combination of several medical problems associated with morbid obesity. In addition to obesity, these conditions include: Read more »

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

Could A Low-Salt Diet Be Bad For Your Heart?

A spilled salt shaker

A paper in a recent edition of  Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) offers the contradictory conclusion that taking in less salt—a key goal of U.S. health and dietary recommendations—is bad for you. But before you roll your eyes and groan about flip-flops in science, know that this study isn’t the kind of work on which you or anyone should base dietary decisions.

In this study of 3,681 men and women from Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Romania and Russia whose health was followed for eight years, participants with the lowest sodium excretion (which is a good measure of sodium intake) were 56% more likely to have died from cardiovascular disease than those with the highest sodium excretion. Among the nearly 2,100 participants with normal blood pressure at the study’s start, sodium excretion (sodium intake) had no effect on the development of high blood pressure.

These are startling findings. If true, they would undercut major programs by the U.S. government to reduce Americans’ intake of salt—the main source of sodium—from prepared and processed foods and at home. Read more »

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

About White-Coat Hypertension

“But doc, my blood pressure is always normal at home.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard that line and I know it is true. When some patients come to see me, their blood pressure is abnormally high (above 130/90). This is known as “white-coat hypertension.” Although it has been thought to be from anxiety about seeing the doctor, even long-established patients who have no conscious anxiety can exhibit elevated blood pressure in the office.

Because blood pressure naturally fluctuates and the office visit is not a “normal” setting, it is important for patients who have high blood pressure (hypertension) to have their own blood pressure cuff at home. Now that devices are automated and easy to use, everyone with hypertension should be monitoring their blood pressure in the comfort of their own home. I advise multiple readings over a week at different times of day. Get a reading when resting and when rushing around. Take your blood pressure after you exercise and after a meal. It is important to keep a log and write it down. Only then can we see patterns and know if the blood pressure is controlled or not.

Blood pressure readings in the doctors office are not necessarily the most accurate. Patients are often rushed trying to get parked and in on time. Medical assistants can use the wrong size cuff or not position the arm correctly. Listening (auscultation) is not very accurate due to human error. It is the multiple readings over time that give a more accurate picture of blood pressure control.

High blood pressure in the office can be true hypertension or it can be white-coat hypertension that is usually controlled at home. If a patient is on blood pressure medication and has controlled blood pressure at home, I will not add more medication just because they are elevated in the office. If a patient has not been diagnosed with hypertension and his or her blood pressure is elevated in the office, he or she is advised to get their own blood pressure cuff for at home and return with readings for us to review. This way we can minimize unnecessary and expensive medication and make sure we are protecting the patient as well.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Latest Interviews

How To Make Inpatient Medical Practice Fun Again: Try Locum Tenens Work

It s no secret that most physicians are unhappy with the way things are going in healthcare. Surveys report high levels of job dissatisfaction burn out and even suicide. In fact some believe that up to a third of the US physician work force is planning to leave the profession…

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Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

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Latest Cartoon

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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Click here for a musical take on over-testing.

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Latest Book Reviews

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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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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