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66 posts from August 2011

08/26/2011

Human multiple myeloma study at Mayo Clinic.... #RochMN

An agreement has been finalized between Mayo Clinic here in Rochester, Minnesota and Senesco Technologies, Inc. for a clinical trial focused on safety and tolerability of a multiple myeloma drug.

Pharmbiz.com says "multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell derived from B-lymphocytes, normally responsible for the production of antibodies, in which abnormal cells accumulate in the bone marrow leading to bone lesions and interfering with the production of normal blood cells."

The sites says the study involves "the study design calls for twice-weekly dosing of patients for 6 weeks followed by a safety data review period before escalating to a higher dose level in a new group of patients."

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

08/25/2011

Code yellow cleared at Mayo Clinic...#RochMN

The code yellow today (August 25, 2011) has been cleared at Mayo Clinic. It was called because of high patient volume in the emergency department to make sure adequate staff would be available to meet patient needs, said clinic spokesman Bryan Anderson.

• One patient was taken to Mayo by Gold Cross Ambulance.

• Two arrived on the Mayo One medical helicopter.

• One person was transported by the Eyota ambulance service.

Anderson said a code yellow is declared any time one of the following criteria is met:
• The imminent arrival at the Emergency Department (ED) of between five (5) and ten (10) Level 1 trauma patients.
• The imminent arrival at the Emergency Department of between three (3) and eight (8) Level 1 trauma pediatric patients.
• The imminent arrival at the Emergency Department of between eleven (11) and twenty (20) patients.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Code yellow at Mayo Clinic.... #RochMN

We have confirmation from multiple sources that a "code yellow" has been called throughout Mayo Clinic system in Rochester, Minnesota.

It's unclear why, although we're aware of two auto crashes that injured approximately six people.

A code yellow is typically called when mass casualties are expected. It's typically an all-hands-on-deck response to an emerging trauma.

It alerts staff to check supplies, avoid sending workers home until the critical period has passed and to get needed specialists to the locations they need to be.

For example, if a neonatal pediatrician is needed or a  neurologist or mental health experts skilled at counseling traumatized survivors, those staffers will get paged so everyone who's needed will be available when the injured arrive.

The last time a code yellow was publicly acknowledged was in November of 2009 after a bus crash near Austin, Minnesota injured multiple people and also killed some of the riders.

For family members outside our readership area, Mayo in Rochester is ranked as the third-best hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report, ranking among the top hospitals nationwide in 16 categories. Only 140 facilities nationwide ranked in even one category out of the 4,825 analyzed.

It's the second-best hospital in orthopedics (bone surgery, for example) and second-best in neurology (head trauma surgery, for example). So that can offer some reassurance to folks from outside the southeast Minnesota region who know an affected loved one. 

Patients experiencing trauma are taken to Mayo's Saint Marys Hospital, where Mayo Eugenio Litta Children's Hospital is located.

Saint Marys Hospital  August 2011
[Saint Marys Hospital exterior on 2nd Street S.W. in Rochester, Minnesota. Photo by Jeff Hansel. Please click to enlarge. Copyright.]

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Message to Mayo Clinic's Haiti teams.... #RochMN

Here's a note for the many, many volunteer health providers who served on one of Mayo Clinic's many response teams since the earthquake in Haiti.

Might be interested in this.

The earthquake struck on January 12, 2010 and devastated the country, which already had an incredibly high rate of poverty.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota is reporting that a whole-genome study of post-earthquake cholera "produced strong evidence that United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal brought the disease into the country."

This highlights the need, in my opinion, to recognize the speed with which infectious diseases can spread worldwide.

"According to the latest update from Haiti's health ministry, the outbreak has so far sickened 428,785 people and killed 6,194," CIDRAP says.

And, the article by CIDRAP staff writer Lisa Schnirring says, the outbreak is actually a worldwide one and that this is the seventh recorded cholera pandemic.

CIDRAP said a researcher pointed out that the results of the cholera study show "how rapidly infectious diseases can spread through international travel and how public health officials need both advanced molecular tools and standard epidemiological investigations to quickly and accurately pinpoint the sources of outbreaks."

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Want healthy kids? Eat dinner with them....

If you want to decrease the chance that your kids will get involved in risky behavior, the University of Wisconsin advises, sit down with them each night for family dinner.

"It’s well documented that children in families that eat dinner together develop social skills, strengthen family bonds, do better in school, and engage in less risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse. Scheduling regular family dinners is one tactic to assure we take the time to slow down from the hustle and bustle of our lives and be present with our children," the university quotes Dr. Dr. Stephanie Farrell as saying.

The U advises that if sports schedules, classes and work get in the way, start small, even if it's just one shared meal per week to begin with.

There should be "no television, no answering the phone, and no texting,” Farrell is quoted as saying. This allows you to actively listen to your children and connect with them.

"Family mealtimes should be enjoyable, fun and relaxing and unpleasant topics or criticisms should be avoided," the university advises.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

08/24/2011

We're #5, hey! We're #5, hey!

Minnesota has been ranked as the fifth-best in the country for "well being" says a new Gallup announcement.

"Americans in Hawaii continued to set the national standard in wellbeing in the first half of 2011, followed closely by North Dakota. West Virginia and Kentucky maintained their status as the states with the lowest well being," the announcement says.

The rankings "examine life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities."

A total of 177,000 adults were interviewed.

"The Well-Being Index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, where a score of 100 would represent ideal well being," writes Gallup author Dan Witters. Minnesota scored 68.3 (tied with Colorado), Nebraska 68.4, Alaska 69.4, North Dakota 70.5 and Hawaii 71.1.

Southern states struggle, according to Gallup. 

The West Coast and Midwest come out much better.

I note that the index was begun in 2008, so perhaps we need to wait a few more years before trend data becomes reliable. But it's still interesting to take a look. Sampling error was + or - .2 percent.

(Thanks to Post-Bulletin editor Mike Dougherty, who alerted me via Twitter to this story.)

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Mayo Clinic's Petersen to chair HHS Alzheimer's council... #RochMN

Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, will lead the new U.S. Health and Human Services Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services, Mayo announced moments ago.

   Petersen, Ronald loc 3-99

 [Dr. Ronald Petersen. Post-Bulletin file photo.]

According to Mayo, the new council Petersen will chair includes "12 non-federal council members include Alzheimer's disease patient advocates, caregivers and health care providers."

U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will be advised by the council. It will meet quarterly and members serve four-year terms.

Kathleen Sebelius at CDC August 2009  4427
[U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the H1N1 influenza pandemic. Photo by Jeff Hansel. Copyright.]

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

A different kind of crosswalk from Rochester... #RochMN

While in New England this summer I saw a completely different concept for crosswalk safety than what we have here in Rochester, Minnesota.

The crosswalks in Hanover, New Hampshire are painted bright red.

Crosswalks Hanover New Hampshire
[Hanover, New Hampshire crosswalks. Please click to enlarge. Photo by Jeff Hansel. Copyright.]

The interesting thing to me, as a pedestrian who walks a lot here in Rochester, Minnesota; drives and has been hit, as a pedestrian, while crossing a local street, was that ALL the cars stop going in ALL directions while the crossing lights turn green.

This has led to a habit of some pedestrians crossing the street at an angle instead of crossing one street and then the next. All the cars sit there and the drivers wait until the light changes again. Seemed to work pretty well in Hanover. Of course, I grant that it's a college town so perhaps there are more pedestrians than some communities.

But it seems a worthwhile (though potentially costly) endeavor.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

08/23/2011

Lady Volunteers coach difficult diagnosis after Mayo Clinic visit... #RochMN

The Knoxville Sentinel is reporting that Tennessee's Lady Volunteers coach Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia after a visit to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

"Summitt went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in May. She underwent a series of tests and received a stunning answer. The diagnosis was early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type," the newspaper reports.

Summitt, 59, is planning to coach her 38th season for the Tennessee Lady Vols, the Sentinel says. I'm glad to see someone with such name recognition make a public decision to go forward despite the diagnosis. Her 

The newspaper notes her particular appreciation of Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, a researcher I've spoken with on many occasions and can understand why she might feel that way. He appears kind, compassionate and empathetic, with a strong desire to find answers about Alzheimer's, and answers for patients dealing with a diagnosis.

"He’s the one who told me you can coach as long as you want to coach and no one else had said anything like that to me,’’ the newspaper quoted Summitt as saying.

He told her "you can work through this" and was so positive she even thought of calling him to give him an update.

Some people might prefer not to know if they have Alzheimer's or early-onset dementia. But, for others, it's important to get a diagnosis early so, like Summitt, they can adjust their lives, make plans and talk with loved one about their future.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's according to Petersen's Mayo site online, include:
• Memory loss that disrupts daily life
• Challenges in planning or solving problems
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
• Confusion with time or place
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• New problems with words in speaking or writing
• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Decreased or poor judgment
• Withdrawal from work or social activities
• Changes in mood and personality

I extend my best wishes to Coach Summitt and her team and my to Dr. Petersen and his team in their continued quests — one group on the basketball courts and both against dementia.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

CT better for lung cancer screening of heavy smokers...

National Lung Screening Trial results published in the print abstract of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine this month (August, 2011) showed 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among those at high risk for lung cancer who were screened with CT scans compared to those screened with chest X-rays.

There were "20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among trial participants screened with CT" (trial participants were heavy current or former smokers ages 55 to 74).

Deaths from all causes, including lung cancer and other causes like heart attacks, were "6.7 percent lower in those screened with low-dose…CT relative to those screened with chest X-ray."

The trial studied 53,454 participants. More than 10,000 provided tissue samples to create a biorepository for future research. Those with lung tumors removed surgically were asked to provide samples to supplement the biorepository, according to the National Cancer Institute.

A CT screening (not typically covered by insurance as of 2010) costs about $300, according to the NCI.

"If lung cancer deaths were excluded, the differences in all causes of mortality between low-dose helical CT and chest X-ray were not statistically significant," the Cancer Institute reports. In other words, the risk-of-extra-deaths category basically included only those who smoked.

It's important to note the age range of study participants, because if you're younger or older the results might not apply to you. Also, there's risk to any type of screening.

For example, "among the possible harms of low-dose helical CT are the cumulative effects of radiation from multiple CT scans; surgical complications in patients who prove not to have lung cancer; and risks from additional diagnostic work-ups for findings unrelated to potential lung cancer, such as liver or kidney lesions," the National Cancer Institute says.

Another problem is "false positives" — screening tests that show potential lung cancer that turns out not to be so. The total false positives were 96.4 percent in the CT group and 94.5 percent in the chest X-ray group. 

The results showed 247 deaths per 100,000 person-years in the CT group versus 309 deaths in the X-ray group.

"The number (of heavy smokers) needed to screen with low-dose CT to prevent one death from lung cancer was 320," the full text of the journal article says.

Smokers who quit smoking, over time, improve their risk to the point where, eventually, their risk of death equals that of the general population. The National Cancer Institute says you reduce your chance of dying prematurely by half if you stop smoking by age 50 and by 90 percent if you stop by age 30.

"Winona Health is offering a FREE four-session Smoking Cessation Program beginning Thursday, September 1. The group meets four consecutive Thursday evenings from 6 – 7:15 p.m. in the Parkview Conference Room located on the first floor of the hospital," the health center announced today (August 23, 2011).

There are also smoking cessation services, including low-cost services at some locations, in Rochester, Minnesota at Olmsted Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, the Salvation Army and other locations.

(Special thanks to Mayo Clinic Youtube producers for their video on this topic.)

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel