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Hospital Markets $99 Spiral CT Scan, Claims It Could Save Your Life

A hundred bucks doesn’t buy much these days. A crisp Ben Franklin can be exchanged for

  • 50 Big Macs
  • A Broadway show ticket
  • A night in a New York City hotel (just joking)
  • A college textbook (paperback)
  • Your life

Your life? Yes, 5 crumpled Andy Jacksons can save your life, as was reported earlier this year in a front page article in The Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s only daily newspaper. University Hospital is now offering a $99 spiral computed tomography (CT scans) of the chest in individuals who are at increased risk of developing lung cancer. The rationale is that if cancers can be detected early, then the cure rate for surgical removal is very high.

Gary Schwitzer, medical blogger and press watchdog, tries to bring some balance to the distorted media coverage of CT lung cancer reportage.

The test is Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

Universal Cardiac Screening For All Young Athletes?

It’s heart wrenching when young athletes die of sudden cardiac death (SCD). Last week the death of Wes Leonard, a Michigan high school star athlete, was especially poignant since he collapsed right after making the game-winning shot. This sort of tragedy occurs about one hundred times each year in America. That’s a lot of sadness. The obvious question is: Could these deaths be prevented? Let’s start with what actually happens.

Most cases of sudden death in young people occur as a result of either hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), an abnormal thickening of heart muscle, or long QT syndrome (LQTS), a mostly inherited disease of the heart’s electrical system. Both HCM and LQTS predispose the heart to ventricular fibrillation — electrical chaos of the pumping chamber of the heart. The adrenaline surges of athletic competition increase the odds of this chaos. Unfortunately, like heart disease often does, both these ailments can strike without warning.

Sudden death is sad enough by itself, but what makes it even worse is that both these ailments are mostly detectable with two simple painless tests: The ECG and echocardiogram (heart ultrasound). Let’s get these kids ECGs and echos then. “Git ‘er dun,” you might say.

On the surface the solution seems simple: Implement universal cardiac screening of all young athletes. And you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this way. You could even boast the support of Dr. Manny Alvarez of Fox News and the entire country of Italy, where all athletes get ECGs and echos before competing. But America isn’t Italy, and things aren’t as simple as Fox News likes to suggest. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Screening For Lung Cancer: New Findings And Continued Controversy

Lung cancer screening has been an area of considerable controversy. Before today, there had been no evidence that screening patients for lung cancer, either with a CT scan or chest x-ray, saved lives.

For years, doctors have been waiting for the results of the large, randomized National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), conducted by the National Cancer Institute.

[Yesterday] it was announced that the trial was stopped early, with a bold, positive finding:

All participants had a history of at least 30 pack-years, and were either current or former smokers without signs, symptoms, or a history of lung cancer.

As of Oct. 20, 2010, the researchers saw a total of 354 deaths from lung cancer in the CT group, compared with 442 in the chest x-ray group.

That amounts to a 20.3% reduction in lung cancer mortality — a finding that the study’s independent data and safety monitoring board decided was statistically significant enough to halt the trial and declare a benefit.

Previously, only breast, colon, and cervical cancer has had the evidence back up its screening recommendations. It’s still early in the game, but it appears that lung cancer may be following in that same path. That said, there are a variety of concerns before opening up the floodgates to screening chest CTs. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

High-Tech Scans Of Fruits And Vegetables?

Medical Pastiche blogger Peter Zavislak, whom I can always count on to point out the unusual and interesting sides of medicine, sent me to a website that has nothing but pictures and videos of food in an MRI scanner.
Here’s a series of images from their site of a cantaloupe as viewed from an MRI: 

 

I just find myself thinking that these MRI machines aren’t cheap to run and maintain. Doctors and nurses used to be able to get “freebies” by buddying up with the X-ray, CT or MRI technologist and running a scan for free.
Some hospitals allow their employees to test the machines after being set up or maintained to get images for testing purposes. I’m sure more than a technologist or radiologist or two have found incidentalomas from this practice. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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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