Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Robot Performs Surgery For Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Is It Over The Top?

I came across this article the other day regarding use of the daVinci robot to perform base of tongue surgery for obstructive sleep apnea.

For those who don’t know, the daVinci robot system made by Intuitive Surgical is a robotic system whereby the surgeon directs the arms of the robot to perform surgery in difficult-to-access areas of the body.

My feeling is that using a robot to perform sleep apnea surgery is way overkill akin to using a $50,000 sniper rifle to kill an ant on the wall.

Everything the daVinci robot can do can also be done without the robot with equivalent patient outcomes. In fact, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

Free Throat, Head, Neck Cancer Screenings May Overstate Their Effectiveness

All over the country in May, hospitals are offering “Free Throat Cancer Screening.” A Google search turned up dozens of results for that specific term or the related “oral, head and neck cancer screening.”

Here’s one example, promoting “Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, May 8-14.”

This promotion uses ominous warnings:

Can you live without your voice?

What about your jaw?

Would you miss it if you couldn’t swallow food?

Throat cancer can take all of those things away, along with your ability to eat, talk and breathe normally. These debilitating problems can be prevented, but you have to catch cancer early.

Some promotions – such as this one – use celebrity pitches such as “If it happened to Michael Douglas, it can happen to you.”

Here’s one that states, “A 10-minute, painless screening could save your life.”

But where’s the evidence for that? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

A Promising New Treatment For Blocked Ears

Eustachian tube dysfunction is a phenomenon whereby a person is unable to pop their ears to relieve symptoms of ear pressure, clogging, or fullness. It is much akin to the ear pressure a person experiences when flying, but at ground level. Traditionally, treatment of this condition involved medications like steroid nasal sprays and prednisone along with active valsalva. Once medical treatment has failed, ear tube placement has been the step of last resort.

However, a promising new treatment called eustachian tube balloon dilation has been described in March 2011 to address eustachian tube dysfunction at the source surgically rather than indirectly with tube placement across the eardrum. In essence, a balloon is inserted into the eustachian tube and than inflated thereby opening it up (the balloon is “popping” the ear for you). The balloon is than deflated and removed. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

The Natural Evolution Of Science: As Knowledge Grows, Treatments Change

I read with interest a blog post by Robert Krulwich of NPR fame on why there is so much public resistance to accept changes in truth with new scientific discoveries (some of which was new to even me)…

1) Triceratops with their beautifully placed 3 horns is actually the teenage dinosaur version of the adult Torosaurus (who had ugly asymmetric horns). Now… a decision had to be made regarding which name to stick with. Ultimately, “Triceratops” won out, perhaps because of the “Save the Triceratops” Facebook page???

2) The same unfortunately is not true for the Brontosaurus. It was clear that Apatosaurus is the same dinosaur and as such, the “Brontosaurus” name is no more much to the dismay of many lay public… Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

Dense Nasal Hair May Reduce Asthma Risk In Allergy Sufferers

Researchers in Turkey found that there is an association between nasal hair density and risk of asthma developing in patients with seasonal rhinitis patients. No joke… They published their findings in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology in March 2011.

The rate of asthma found in patients with little or no nasal hair was 44.7% whereas only 16.7% of patients with a dense forest of nasal hair had asthma.

They hypothesize that increased nasal hair improves allergen filtration thereby preventing the allergens from irritating the airway. The assumption here being that allergen irritation of the airway can potentially cause asthma.

IF this is true (and that’s a big if)… patients with allergies should be encouraged to grow nice thick nasal hair to prevent future asthma!

Read the research abstract here!

Does Nasal Hair (Vibrissae) Density Affect the Risk of Developing Asthma in Patients with Seasonal Rhinitis? Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2011 Mar 30;156(1):75-80

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »