In 2006, Medicare (we) spent 25% of our dollars on treatment for people in their last year of life. The debate rages, waged with euphemism in public and painful, conflicting emotions in private: how can we let Grandma go peacefully and with dignity, without feeling too guilty or ending up in front of a Senate subcommittee? [… read more]
Smoking cessation counseling may feel like a waste of the time and effort required, since most smokers don’t quit. But evidence shows that even the <10% success rate of smoking cessation counseling saves millions of lives, compared to doing nothing. According to a recent smoking cessation review in the NEJM: Even those not ready to quit do 8% of the time [… read more]
Zhang et al pooled 20 studies that compared ultrasound, chest X-ray, or both against a reference standard (usually CT scan) for the diagnosis of pneumothorax. Chest X-ray had a pooled sensitivity of 52% and specificity 99% for diagnosis of pneumothorax. Ultrasound’s pooled sensitivity was 88% and specificity, 100%. Unsurprisingly, the accuracy of ultrasonography to diagnose [… read more]
People with asthma have an impressive and frustrating variability in their response to treatment, with corticosteroids and other drugs. As many as 40% of people with asthma don’t respond to inhaled steroids. Asthma’s familial basis is well-known: 60% of the variability in the response to albuterol may be inherited, and more than 80% of the treatment response to [… read more]
Hunt et al used the Beach method (I can’t find what that is) to ascertain the degree of U.K. adolescents’ exposure to moviestars’ smoking in films. Those teens who went to a lot of movies that had smoking were twice as likely to smoke as those with low exposure to film smoking. Those with parental [… read more]
It sounds like a doctor must have been pretty rude to Chicago’s Ms. Carolyn Bucksbaum 20+ years ago. She’s giving $42 million of her and her husband’s shopping-mall fortune to the University of Chicago, to create an institute devoted to improving medical students’ bedside mannerisms. Their beloved personal U. of C. physician, Mark Siegler, will [… read more]
Combining 58 studies into a meta-analysis, Leonardi-Bee et al report that children in the U.K. are more likely to start smoking if both parents smoke (odds ratio 2.7), a brother or sister (OR 2.3), only their mother smokes (OR 2.2), or only their father (OR 1.7). If only their Aunt Haggie smokes, the effects are [… read more]
Gershon et al used Canadian health administrative databases to identify all new diagnoses of COPD in Ontario from 1996-2010, a cohort of 13 million people. Lifetime risk of COPD (by age 80) was 27.6%. Smoking status was not available/included in the analysis. These were physicians’ diagnoses of COPD (using a validated case definition); there was [… read more]
Two kids under 5, one in Indiana and the other in Pennsylvania, have contracted a new reassorted swine flu: H3N2. The Pennsylvania child had had direct contact with a pig at an agricultural fair; the Indiana kid had been cared for by someone who had come in contact with a pig recently. Both children recovered [… read more]
Observational epidemiologic data on 132 California kids who caught pertussis (of 15,000 in a cohort), presented at the American Society for Microbiology meeting last week, suggested that protection from pertussis vaccination may wane as soon as 3 years after the last dose. Kids age 8-12 were most at risk (the last dose is given at [… read more]
West et al report survey and in-service exam data from 16,394 internal medicine residents nationwide, 2008-2009. Almost 15% reported that their lives “suck” or “profoundly suck” (I’m paraphrasing slightly). About half reported emotional exhaustion or feeling burned-out. Almost 30% were in a disconnected, fugue-like state. The really depressed ones did worse on their in-service exams, [… read more]
From 2005 to 2010, the percent of U.S. adults identifying themselves as smokers fell from 20.9% to 19.3% — about 3 million fewer smokers than would be expected. The results come from the CDC’s national telephone health surveys. More remarkably, adults reported smoking far fewer cigarettes: The proportion of adults reporting smoking more than a [… read more]
Accountability for Medical Error: Moving Beyond Blame to Advocacy. CHEST 2011;140:519-526. Bell et al’s great essay on the dysfunctional mechanics and culture of liability / safety / blame surrounding medical errors in hospitals and our medical care system in general. They propose steps toward “collective accountability,” e.g., we MDs should sit on hospital safety committees. But [… read more]
Under mandate by the FDA to answer lingering questions about long-acting beta agonists’ safety for treatment of asthma, four major pharma firms will launch five large randomized trials comparing inhaled corticosteroid / long-acting beta agonist combination products vs. ICS alone. The trials (4 in adults, 1 in kids) will enroll >50,000 people starting this year, [… read more]
Widespread beliefs among physicians that people with mental illness are more addicted, or less desirous or capable of quitting smoking, are wrong and perpetuate a deadly problem, argues J.J. Prochaska. You should nag mentally ill folks to quit smoking as you would anyone else, she urges. NEJM 2011;365:196-198. FULL FREE TEXT
In a great essay, Coller proposes re-engineering the health care system before Obamacare amplifies our skyrocketing cost problem under fee-for-service. Sounds like a twist on accountable care organizations, but more plausible and on its face politically palatable (after the bloody noses heal). JAMA 2011;306:204-205.
Particulate matter causes cardiovascular deaths, and also worsens respiratory illness. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to reduce acceptable levels of PM and ozone, a move that would force industry to pay for new upgrades. NEJM 2011;365:198-201.
The 18,000 clinical trials published each year aren’t doing much to improve human health, argues Peter Pronovost. Health delivery research can, by improving delivery and impact of already-proven interventions. But doing so will require cutting a slice of the funding pie for social scientists and other untouchables in the “omics”-loving academic caste system. JAMA 2011;306:310-311.
The Research Agenda in ICU Telemedicine: A Statement From the Critical Care Societies Collaborative. Kahn JM et al. CHEST 2011;140:230-238.
Why are big single center trial effects not often replicated in larger multi-center randomized controlled trials? Dechartres et al did a meta-meta-analysis on 48 meta-analyses comprising 421 randomized clinical trials. Across all their sensitivity analyses, reported treatment effects were consistently and substantially larger in single-center trials than in multi-center trials. No one knows why yet. [… read more]