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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.

Would You Like To Be Fully Conscious During Open Heart Surgery?

Why someone would want to do this, I haven’t a clue.

Swaroup Anand, 23, from Bangalore, is fully conscious as he undergoes open-heart surgery. An epidural to the neck, administered at the city’s Wockhardt Hospital, has numbed his body. Dr Vivek Jawali pioneered the technique ten years ago and has recently released a tutorial on DVD which gives a step-by-step guide to the procedure – sorry, but you can only get a copy if you’re a surgeon or an anaesthetist.

Seems there would be considerable risk of respiratory compromise is the epidural went too high. But according to this video, over 400 cases have been performed, including a bypass with aortic valve replacement!

I don’t know… I’m not sure I could stomach the sound of the bone saw or, worse, if the surgeon said “Oh, crap…”

h/t: Slashdot

Chakravarthy MR, Jawali V, Patil TA, Srinivasan KN, Manohar M, Khan J, Jayaprakash K, Das JK, Mahajan V. “High thoracic epidural anaesthesia as the sole anaesthetic technique for minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass in a high-risk patient.” Ann Card Anaesth. 2003 Jan;6(1):62-4.Musings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

When Fame Corrupts: The Embarrassing Downward Spiral Of Celebrity Doc, Mehmet Oz

The newest media Doc on the block is Dr. Mehmet Oz. When he was first seen on Oprah, he seemed engaging and answered some interesting questions in a real and professional way. The audience loved his blue scrubs and boyish clean cut open style.

That was then.

Let’s face it…the media spotlight seems to corrupt even the best physicians. Dr. Oz now has his own show and website and production company. That is a pretty big infrastructure to maintain and we know that the public is fickle. So what does he do?

His “Real-Age” website got 27 million people to sign up and take a health quiz. That information was sold to pharmaceutical companies who used the direct emails for marketing. Real-Age also sends the participants a series of emails about conditions they may (or may not) have and drugs they can use to treat it, based on their answers to the on-line health quiz, sponsored by drug companies of course. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

A Young Man With A Congenital Heart Defect

…in four parts, from Paul Levy’s blog.

It is, says Paul, “From a friend of a friend,” and it starts thus…

My son is sleeping right now…had a rough weekend – his blood pressure dropped, his blood count was decreasing, and he had chest and neck pain. The clinical team adjusted his meds, gave him a unit of blood, and are now trying to figure out what to do next. He is scared and worried and wants so desperately to be “normal” again. He is scheduled for leg surgery this afternoon and then we wait to see what the next steps will be.

While I have a few quiet moments, I thought I’d document the story of how he made it this far….it is a story of extraordinary luck and a fair amount of clinical heroism.

My son was born 17 years ago with transposition of the great arteries (his heart had over-rotated and was pumping in a way that didn’t allow oxygenated blood to move from the lungs to the body and back again) so he had a 9 hour operation at a week old to reconstruct his heart.

…read the rest of part one

…and parts two, three & four.

Here, in my opinion, is the best passage from the entire saga…

My son is receiving absolute top-notch care from the only place in the area that could have saved him, but was by luck, not by any “consumerism” on our part – we didn’t Google “teenage arterial switch survivor with heart attack” or pull up HealthGrades to find the best hospital or doctors to treat him….we have benefited from the kindness and skill of a community of health care providers affiliated with a hospital that was uniquely situated to help him, but the only choice we had in this was what hospital to drive him to.

In part 2, we learn the reason for the young man’s sudden collapse…

We learned much later that the problem that caused the heart attack was due to his reconstructive surgery when he was a baby…as he grew and became more active, one of the reimplanted coronary arteries became pinched between the rebuilt pulmonary artery and the aorta….this was an inevitable result of the surgery that saved his life 17 years ago and would have happened at some point – while swimming, riding his bike, walking in the neighborhood, playing lacrosse, or running by himself in the neighborhood as he trained for cross country….so the fourth link – he happened to have his attack while at a school with trainers equipped with an AED, with coaches and parents and teammates right there ready and able to help him. He wasn’t alone….and he was in the best possible place to have his attack (even though he complicated things a bit by having it in the woods and falling down a steep bank)

Congenital cardiovascular abnormalities, especially anomalous coronary arteries, are amongst the commonest of causes of sudden cardiac death in athletes.1 Ramona had posted about a young man who collapsed and died during the Little Rock Marathon in 2008. That unfortunate young athlete had a rare disease of the coronary arteries.

Coronary artery anomalies constitute 1–3% of all congenital malformations of the heart. In approximately 0.46–1% of the normal population, anomalies of the coronary arteries are found incidentally during catheter angiography or autopsy. The etiology of coronary artery anomalies is still uncertain. Maternal transmission of some types has been suggested, particularly when only a single coronary artery is involved. Familial clustering is also reported for one of the most common anomalies, in which the left circumflex coronary artery (CX) originates from the right sinus of Valsalva. Anomalies of the coronary arteries may also be associated with Klinefelter’s syndrome and trisomy 18 (i.e., Edwards syndrome). Cardiac causes for early and sudden infant death include anomalies of the coronary arteries; the Bland-White-Garland-Syndrome may be one relevant cause. Anomalies of the coronary arteries found in children may be associated with other congenital anomalies of the heart like Fallot’s syndrome, transposition of the great arteries, Taussig-Bing heart (double-outlet right ventricle), or common arterial trunk.2

Normal Coronary Arterial Anatomy

Normal Coronary Arterial Anatomy

Common variants are anomalies with origin from the contralateral side of the aortic bulb. These include an origin of the LMA or the LAD from the RSV or the proximal RCA and an origin of the RCA from the LSV or the LMA. There are four possible pathways for these aberrant vessels to cross over to their regular peripheral locations: (1) “anterior course” ventral to the pulmonary trunk or the right ventricular outflow tract, (2) “interarterial course” between the pulmonary artery and aorta, (3) “septal course” through the interventricular septum, and (4)”retro-aortic course”. Clinically, course anomalies of the coronary arteries are subdivided into “malignant” and “non-malignant” forms. Malignant forms are associated with an increased risk of myocardial ischemia or sudden death and mostly show a course between the pulmonary artery and aorta (i.e., “interarterial”). The most common case is an origin of the RCA from the LSV that courses between the aortic bulb and the pulmonary artery. Anomalies of the LMA or the LAD arising from the RSV with a similar course are associated with higher cardiac risk, too. It is suggested that myocardial ischemia and sudden death result from transient occlusion of the aberrant coronary artery, due to an increase of blood flow through the aorta and pulmonary artery during exercise or stress. The reason is either a kink at the sharp leftward or rightward bend at the vessel’s ostium or a pinch-cock mechanism between the aorta and pulmonary artery. Up to 30% of such patients are at risk for sudden death.2

The young man in this story probably had something like this after the surgical correction (Arterial Switch Operation) for TGA…

“Malignant” course of LAD

…a classical malignant course of the LAD between the Aorta and Pulmonary artery.


  1. Sudden Death in Young Athletes: Screening for the Needle in a Haystack – Free full text article in American Family Physician.
  2. Text about congenital coronary artery anomalies and the two figures are from this textbook – Multi-slice and Dual-source CT in Cardiac Imaging.

Start Slide Show with PicLens Lite PicLens

*This blog post was originally published at scan man's notes*

Robot-Assisted Surgery Has Poorer Outcomes And Is More Expensive – But Because It’s Cool, We’ll Use It Anyway?

Yesterday in our cath conference, we discussed the substudy from the prospective randomized trial called PREVENT-IV just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. That study evaluated the major adverse cardiac event rates of minimally invasive vein harvesting compared to open vein harvesting prior to coronary bypass surgery.

I was surprised to see that minimally-invasive vein harvesting had a higher combined complication rate of death, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and need for revascularization in the patients who received vein grafts harvested by the minimally-invasive technique. Following the presentation of the data, our surgeons were asked why this might be the case. While none knew for sure, they postulated that the art of harvesting vein-conduits using endovascular techniques might play a role (it’s more difficult), or the effects of the thrombolytic state induced by on-pump bypass vs. off-pump bypass might create the discrepency in post-surgery vein survival, since patients are less likely to develop clinical thromboses in the post-open chest bypass population.

So this morning, I was surprised that President Obama toured Cleveland Clinic yesterday and had such an up-front experience with minimally-invasive robotic surgical techniques for mitral valve repair that hardly represents mainstream American health care. While the marvels of the technology cannot be disputed, like the endovascular vein harvesting study above, might we find that robotics could be as deleterious to patients compared to open chest techniques? After all, these techniques have yet to be compared in multi-center trials to more conventional open techniques for mitral valve repair. But more concerning as we move forward is this question: will academic centers be granted more funds to test comparative effectiveness research for robotics at the expense of front-line American health care? Surely, this won’t be, will it?


But when I see pieces like this I wonder why the article does not question the cost and risks of this technique compared to conventional open-chest procedures, especially in this era of touting the need for health care cost containment. How much is this piece about the marketing of this technique to the community (for financial gain) or to the President (for obtaining grants or political favors)?

Perhaps we should ask ourselves how many of the physicians and surgeons at Cleveland Clinic stand to earn a seat on the proposed MEDPAC board that will determine if Congress will approve payment for robotic techniques even when few data exist to show their superiority over conventional techniques.

Now that might make for some really interesting reading.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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