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Health Updates 26 March 2012

  • 3-day marathon awaits lawyers in health case: “The three days of Supreme Court arguments that start Monday on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law will be a legal marathon, and the lawyers involved have been in training.  Last week, there were so many of the mock arguments that lawyers call moot court that they threatened to exhaust something that have never been thought in short supply: Washington lawyers willing to pretend to be Supreme Court justices….The law itself is a sprawling revision of the health care system meant to provide coverage to tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans by imposing new requirements on states, employers and insurance companies and, through what has been called the individual mandate, by requiring most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penalty.  The decision in the case will have enormous practical consequences for how health care is delivered in the United States.  It is likely to land in June, with large repercussions for both Mr. Obama and his Republican challenger just before the two parties hold their nominating conventions.” (NY Times)
  • New blood test may predict heart attack: “A new blood test may be able to predict a heart attack before it actually happens, the test’s developers claim.  Doctors traditionally rely on treadmill stress tests to predict heart attacks.  These tests can tell if there is a blockage in the coronary arteries, but can’t determine whether or when the blockage will rupture and cause a heart attack.  Enter the new blood test.  Individuals with high levels of misshapen circulating endothelial cells (CECs) coming from the lining of blood vessels may be at imminent risk for having a heart attack, the researchers report. ‘The ability of diagnose an imminent heart attack has long been considered the holy grail of cardiovascular medicine,’ study author Eric Topol, of Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego, said in a statement.  He has a patent on the technology used to measure CECs.” (HealthDay)
  • Allergies ahead of schedule in eastern United States: “The unusually warm spring weather in New York and other parts of the eastern United States has trees and other plants blooming much earlier than normal, which could mean a long and intense allergy season.  Donald Leopold, chair of the environmental and forest biology department at State University of New York‘s College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, said maples, willows, aspens, poplars and other woody plant species that bloom in early spring are major contributors of wind-dispersed pollen that causes allergic reactions….all signs [continued Leopold] point to an extended and severe allergy season.” (womenshealth.gov)
  • Cheney transplant turns focus to age and HF treatments: “Already battered by a handful of MIs, former Vice President Dick Cheney‘s heart required help that arrived in the form of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) in 2010.  More than 20 months later — on Saturday — the wait ended when he received a new heart at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va.  Clinicians contacted by ABC news and MedPage Today largely agreed that his receipt of an LVAD — the HeartMate II — enhanced the public’s awareness of that treatment option, and his 20-month survival, combined with Saturday’s transplant is likely to spark renewed enthusiasm for interventions aimed at extending the lives of patients with advanced heart failure….When Cheney received the mechanical assist device it lifted the veil on the technology and facilitated discussion about the device with patients with heart failure, said Mary Norine Walsh, MD, Medical Director of the Cardiac Transplant Patient Program at St. Vincent Heart Center…His situation, she told MedPage Today, ‘changed people’s perception of the therapy’.” (Todd Neale, MedPage Today)
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