Tag Archives: Harvard Medical School

Studies: What Makes For Successful Recoveries

Inflammation is the body’s first line of defense, occurring as droves of immune cells rush to the site of injury or acute illness to make repairs and stem further damage.

When successful, inflammation helps the body survive and heal after trauma. However, when recovery following an inflammatory response goes awry, it signals that damage is still occurring — and the inflammation itself can cause further injury, leading to more-severe illness or even death.

But what differentiates a good inflammatory recovery from a bad one?

A new study, led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, published Aug. 22 in Nature Communications, yields critical clues.

The scientists identified universal features of the inflammatory responses of patients who successfully recovered after surgery or acute illnesses such as COVID-19, heart attack, and sepsis. These features, they discovered, include precise paths that white blood cell and platelet counts follow as they return to normal.

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Eye Health: Why Corneal Transplants Are Rising

At one time, replacement parts for the eyes must have seemed unimaginable. Nowadays, if the inner lens of the eye becomes clouded by a cataract, a routine surgery to swap it out with a new artificial lens restores vision.

But what happens if the outer lens of the eye (the cornea) becomes damaged or diseased? You can have that replaced, too. “It’s not as common as cataract surgery, but many people get corneal diseases after age 50 and may need a corneal transplant,” says Dr. Nandini Venkateswaran, a corneal and cataract surgeon at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear.

More than 49,000 corneal transplants occurred in 2021 in the US, according to the Eye Bank Association of America.

What is the cornea?

The cornea is a dome of clear tissue at the front of each eye, covering the iris and pupil, that acts as a windshield that protects the delicate eye apparatus behind it, and focuses light onto the retina, which sends signals that the brain turns into images (your vision).

You need this combo of windshield and camera lens to focus and see clearly. But many things can go wrong within the five layers of tissue that make up the cornea. That can make it hard to see and rob you of the ability to read, drive, work, and get through other activities in your day.

How does damage to the cornea occur?

It may stem from a number of causes:

  • Injuries, such as a fall. “Falls are a big reason for people to come in with acute eye trauma. The cornea can be damaged easily if something pokes it,” Dr. Venkateswaran says.
  • Previous eye surgeries. “Especially for adults who’ve had several eye surgeries — such as cataract and glaucoma surgeries — the inner layers of the cornea can become damaged and weakened with age,” she adds.
  • Illness. Problems like severe corneal infections, or genetic conditions such as Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy, can cause vision loss.

What are the options for treating corneal damage?

Cornea treatment depends on the type of problem you have and the extent of the damage. “It’s a stepwise approach. Sometimes wearing a specialty contact lens or using medications can decrease swelling or scarring in the cornea,” Dr. Venkateswaran says.

Knee Osteoarthritis: New Study Shows Telehealth Visit Benefits (Harvard)

‘HARVARD MEDICINE’: THE AGING ISSUE – AUTUMN 2021

HARVARD STUDY: VITAMIN D LOWERS THE RISK OF YOUNG-ONSET COLORECTAL CANCER

COMMENTARY:

Vitamin D has many beneficial effects, but my comments will be restricted to the effect of vitamin D on cancer.

Interest in this association was started by the observation that certain cancers are less common near the equator, where there is more sunlight exposure, and therefore more natural vitamin D generation in your skin.
The most information on cancer in humans Is available on colorectal, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Colorectal cancer, highlighted DWW our posting, is the only cancer that apparently is affected by vitamin D.

Several studies have suggested that vitamin D can decrease cancer cell growth, stimulate cell death, and reduce cancer blood vessel formation. Increasing cell death, or apoptosis, is what interests me the most, since this is one of the factors which increases inflammation in aging.

The infographics stated that only 300 international units of vitamin D is necessary to produce a 50 Percent reduction in cancer, and that a healthy diet generally supplies this.

I personally take 5000 international units vitamin D. This produces a blood level of about 60 ng/mL, and what the NFL recommends to keep their players healthy, and well within the maximum recommended level of 120 ng/milliliter.

Excessive vitamin D can produce an elevated calcium blood level, and mine is within normal limits. I take the higher dose because of vitamin D’s other effects, such is benefiting the immune system in a time of Conid-19.

I suggest that you get a vitamin D blood level, and also a calcium blood level if you elect to take more of this useful vitamin.

–Dr. C

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ATHEROSCLEROSIS: STRESS, LACK OF SLEEP & EXERCISE AND POOR DIET RAISE RISKS

Swirski acknowledged that “there is no question” that genetics play a role in cardiovascular health, but in the last several years, four risk factors — stress, sleep interruption or fragmentation, diet, and sedentary lifestyle — have been clearly identified as contributing to atherosclerosis, commonly referred to as hardening of the arteries, which can lead to a variety of complications, including death.

VIEWS: IS U.S. HEALTHCARE SYSTEM BROKEN? (HARVARD)

Here’s a question that’s been on my mind and perhaps yours: Is the US healthcare system expensive, complicated, dysfunctional, or broken? The simple answer is yes to all.

Below are 10 of the most convincing arguments I’ve heard that our system needs a major overhaul. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Remember, an entire industry has evolved in the US just to help people navigate the maddeningly complex task of choosing a health insurance plan.

The cost is enormous

  • High cost, not highest quality. Despite spending far more on healthcare than other high-income nations, the US scores poorly on many key health measures, including life expectancy, preventable hospital admissions, suicide, and maternal mortality. And for all that expense, satisfaction with the current healthcare system is relatively low in the US.
  • Financial burden. High costs combined with high numbers of underinsured or uninsured means many people risk bankruptcy if they develop a serious illness. Prices vary widely, and it’s nearly impossible to compare the quality or cost of your healthcare options — or even to know how big a bill to expect. And even when you ask lots of questions ahead of time and stick with recommended doctors in your health insurance network, you may still wind up getting a surprise bill. My neighbor did after knee surgery: even though the hospital and his surgeon were in his insurance network, the anesthesiologist was not.

Access is uneven

  • Health insurance tied to employment. During World War II, healthcare was offered as a way to attract workers since employers had few other options. Few people had private insurance then, but now a layoff can jeopardize your access to healthcare.
  • Healthcare disparities. The current US healthcare system has a cruel tendency to delay or deny high-quality care to those who are most in need of it but can least afford its high cost. This contributes to avoidable healthcare disparities for people of color and other disadvantaged groups.
  • Health insurers may discourage care to hold down costs. Many health insurance companies restrict expensive medications, tests, and other services by declining coverage until forms are filled out to justify the service to the insurer. True, this can prevent unnecessary expense to the healthcare system — and to the insurance company. Yet it also discourages care deemed appropriate by your physician.

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Dr. C Commentary:

Please refer to the DWWR Posting on “concierge doctors” for my rant on the current healthcare system, which I will not repeat.

The truth is more nuanced. All countries are having trouble of one sort or another with their healthcare systems. This is due to the inherent expense of today’s top flight medicine. The very best care requires costly high technology and drugs that are intrinsically hard to produce. And you have to know where to look. I am very thankful for my medical degree, and that I have kept up with current advances.

You would probably need a Government entirely of physicians to develop the willpower to do something for health, which always starts with PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE, A hard sell, given that you must spend money and effort to block something which will probably, but may not always, occur.

There is low hanging fruit. Why are sugary drinks not heavily taxed, since they produce obesity which causes a lot of costly medical disorders, such as diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and cancer, but not everybody all the time?

Why is efficiency of telehealth not more widely embraced, but stymied by moneymaking lobbiests and lawyer powered difficulties, in addition to Patient’s and doctor’s old habits?

And then there are the jealously guarded  American freedoms to do stupid things, such as avoid vaccines and masks, even in a prodigiously expensive and dangerous Covid  epidemic.

Given human nature, a complete solution would seem to be impossible, and we should content ourselves with minor victories wherever they can be attained.

Embrace sleep, diet, and exercise, and KEEP HEALTHY.

–Dr. C

Intensive Care Views: ‘Pain & Airway Management’

Pain Management in the Intensive Care Unit.

Institution: Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin & Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston

HEALTH: ‘RISKS & BENEFITS OF AI REVOLUTION IN MEDICINE’

It has taken time — some say far too long — but medicine stands on the brink of an AI revolution. In a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Isaac Kohane, head of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, and his co-authors say that AI will indeed make it possible to bring all medical knowledge to bear in service of any case.

Properly designed AI also has the potential to make our health care system more efficient and less expensive, ease the paperwork burden that has more and more doctors considering new careers, fill the gaping holes in access to quality care in the world’s poorest places, and, among many other things, serve as an unblinking watchdog on the lookout for the medical errors that kill an estimated 200,000 people and cost $1.9 billion annually.

“I’m convinced that the implementation of AI in medicine will be one of the things that change the way care is delivered going forward,” said David Bates, chief of internal medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s clear that clinicians don’t make as good decisions as they could. If they had support to make better decisions, they could do a better job.”

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