Health Updates 20 April 2012

  • Brain-activated muscle stimulation restores monkeys’ hand movement after paralysis: “An artificial connection between the brain and muscles can restore complex hand movements in monkeys following paralysis, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.  In a report in the journal Nature, researchers describe how they combined two pieces of technology to create a neuroprosthesis, a device that replaces lost or impaired nervous system function.  One piece is a multi-electrode array implanted directly into the brain which serves as the brain-computer interface (BCI)….The second piece is a functional electrical stimulation (FES) device that delivers electrical current to the paralyzed muscles, causing them to contract.  The brain array activates the FES device directly, bypassing the spinal cord to allow intentional, brain-controlled muscle contractions and restore movement.”  While there is a great deal of study and work ahead, Dr. Lee E. Miller, professor of physiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, is encouraged.  ‘With these neural engineering methods, we can take some of the important basic physiology that we know about the brain, and use it to connect the brain directly to muscles….This connection from brain to muscles might someday be used to help patients paralyzed due to spinal cord injury perform activities of daily living and achieve greater independence’.” (NIH News)
  • Hospital-linked infections down, CDC says: “Progress is being made nationwide in lowering rates of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) according to a report from the CDC.  For instance, during 2010 a total of 13,812 bloodstream infections associated with central lines were reported, compared with an expected number of 20,185 based on what was seen between 2006 and 2008.  This represented a standardized infection ratio (SIR) of 0.684…a 32% decrease, the agency reported Thursday.  Since the formation of the National Healthcare Safety Network in 2005, an increasing number of states have mandated reporting of central-line and surgical-site infections by acute care hospitals, with more than 20 states now participating.”  Overall, while there is great room for improvement across a number of operative procedures, state agencies are working hard to improve the quality and accuracy of data, including medical record audits and providing webinars, online training courses and software refinements.  The report concluded that ‘ongoing interactions with state health departments will be critical to determine ways to improve the reporting of HAIs and to act on these data to prevent HAIs’.” (Nancy Walsh, MedPage Today)
  • Diabetes groups issue new guidelines on blood sugar: Type 2 diabetes is a complex metabolic disorder, and treating the disease often requires a personalized, multi-pronged approach, say new expert guidelines on treating high blood sugar levels, issued Thursday.  The recommendations are a joint effort by the American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.  ‘We’re making a lot of progress in managing type 2 diabetes,’ said Dr. Vivian Fonseca, president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association.  ‘The new guidelines are more patient-centered.  The message is to choose an appropriate [blood sugar] goal based on the patient’s current health status, motivation level, resources and complications.   It is very possible to manage type 2 diabetes well and keep blood sugar under good control…It’s important that patients have a discussion with their doctor about what their [blood sugar] goals should be, and what is the best treatment or treatments to get them to that goal’….Fonseca said the new guidelines were necessary because the management of type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly complex; there is a widening array of medications available to treat the disease, and new research studies are constantly being released highlighting both the benefits and the risks of current treatments.”  New guidelines will consider patient age, the risks of side effects, the importance of lifestyle changes and modest exercise and new medication options and recommendations.  In short,  treat the patient, not the blood sugar.   (HealthDay)
  • Measles cases rose in 2011: “Measles cases quadrupled in the United States last year, but outbreaks are still rare compared with those in Europe, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.  There were 222 cases of measles reported in the United States, a third of which required hospitalization, the agency said.  Most of those 17 outbreaks are known to have begun in foreign visitors or in Americans returning from abroad — usually from Europe.  But the virus then often spread to children whose parents did not vaccinate them.  Vaccination resistance is concentrated in certain communities, making children there more vulnerable.  By contrast, there were 37,000 measles cases last year in Europe, where resistance to vaccination is more common.” (NY Times)

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