OTC Painkillers: How Dangerous Are They?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications or “NSAIDs” are sold over the counter in grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies, even though research has long shown that they can be dangerous for people with kidney disease, heart failure or high blood pressure. NSAIDs can also produce adverse reactions when they interact with other medications, both prescription and non-prescription, including antidepressants, antihypertensives, alcohol or aspirin.   However, two new studies, one from BMJ and the other from the European Heart Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy have shown again that NSAIDs may be associated with increased risk of heart failure and cardiac arrest. In BMJ, Arfe et all utilized healthcare databases from four European countries to find adults who began NSAID treatment between 2000-2010. The authors found that the use of any NSAID was associated with a 19% increase of risk of hospital admission for heart failure, with some variation for the type of NSAID and the dosage.   Image: Source   Sondergaard et al utilized the Danish Cardiac Arrest Registry to identify patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and identified patients who had used an NSAID within the 30 days before their cardiac arrest. They found that ibuprofen and diclofenac were associated with a significantly increased risk of cardiac arrest.   Image: Source   This new evidence, along with other studies that have shown the potential for gastric damage and impaired ability to recover after...

Influential Women in Medicine: Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. She graduated from Geneva Medical College in New York in 1849 and later co-founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.   Image: Source   Originally from Gloucestershire, England, Elizabeth grew up in a large family. Her father had a liberal view of education and believed that all his children, including the girls, should be well educated and so Elizabeth grew up with a governess and private tutors. After her family moved to Cincinnati, Elizabeth became a teacher herself, got involved in local politics and began to advocate for women’s rights.   Eventually, Elizabeth grew weary of teaching positions and resolved to save enough money for medical school, around $3,000. She even moved to Philadelphia in hopes of getting into a medical school there, but was unable to find one that would accept her. She was told over and over that her “inferior” female brain wasn’t up to the job, but, on the off chance she would be able to do it, the male physicians didn’t want the competition. One sympathetic physician suggested that she should disguise herself as a man to try to get in.   Image: Source Geneva Medical College, c. 1848   Finally, Hobart College in upstate New York, which was then called Geneva Medical College, decided to give her...

Q+A: Dr. Farha Abbasi Talks Muslim Mental Health and Cultural Psychiatry

As Islamophobia has become almost ingrained in our society’s consciousness, many Muslim-Americans have encountered prejudice. Widespread discrimination has negatively impacted the mental health of Muslims, increasing the risk of common mental disorders. Yet, in an environment where both Islam and mental illness are heavily stigmatized, many Muslims are reluctant to access much-needed health care.   Dr. Farha Abbasi—an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Michigan State University (MSU) and staff psychiatrist at MSU’s Olin Health Center for students—has recognized this unique challenge. After being awarded the American Psychiatric Association SAMSHA Minority Fellowship in 2009, Abbasi established the Muslim Mental Health Conference which raises awareness on mental health in the Muslim-American community—the 9th annual conference will be held this April 13-14. Abbasi, who also serves as the managing editor for the Journal of Muslim Mental Health, uses cultural psychiatry to teach medical students how to provide culturally aware care to Muslim patients. She also works directly with the Muslim American community to create a better understanding of mental illness.   I spoke with Abbasi about Muslim mental health, stigma, and the value of cultural competence in mental health care.   Q: In your experiences, what specific mental health issues have you seen in the Muslim population? A: If you separate from what’s happening right now with Islamophobia, or the impact of immigration, or the wars, or the refugee situation,...

The Hidden Killer: Salt

Food fads and trends are an unavoidable nuisance – one day Gwyneth bakes kale chips on Ellen and suddenly everyone is eating kale until we are all totally and completely sick of kale – kale ice cream, anyone? With today’s focus on low fat and low sugar options, we have learned to check the labels for all different kinds of sugars (glucose, sucrose, sucralose, high fructose corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, rice syrup, etc.) and we can compare saturated, unsaturated and trans fats in our sleep. But in response, food manufacturers have been racing to provide tasty foods that fit those diet criteria, and in some cases, that means LOTS of salt – even in foods we don’t usually think of as “salty.”   It’s well known that salt intake is a factor in many health problems, raising blood pressure and contributing to kidney and cardiovascular disease. Other studies have linked salt to cancer, asthma, Meniere’s disease, osteoarthritis and obesity. The American Heart Association recommends “no more than 2,300 mg per day and an ideal limit of 1,500 mg per day for most adults.” It’s not enough to avoid the salt shaker, as more than 75% of sodium intake comes from prepackaged, processed or restaurant foods.   Image: Source   Recent analysis in Australia has found that one of the biggest culprits of hidden sodium is, surprisingly, bread. Even...

Influential Women in Medicine: Metrodora

Although women have long been considered the caregivers to their family members and communities, women weren’t formally allowed to become physicians until pretty recently. But throughout history there have been women who fought the tides of tradition and became influential physicians in their own right.   Image: Source   Metrodora was a Greek physician somewhere between 200-400 CE. Although a few rare women physicians are known from this time period, such as Aspasia, also from Greece, Metrodora is the author of the oldest surviving medical text written by a women, called On the Diseases and Cures of Women. In keeping with the ancient traditions of midwifery, it was common at the time for women to assist with childbirth and some aspects of gynecology.  However, Metrodora’s book was unusual because it covered many other areas of medicine, but not obstetrics, at least not in the surviving manuscripts. Rather than focusing on obstetrics, she was clearly most interested in pathology and was greatly influenced by Hippocrates. Her manuscript made clear that medicine wasn’t just a scholarly interest for Metrodora, but that she took an active hands-on approach to treatment and she discusses her own observations from examinations. She was one of the first to suggest surgical treatment for both breast and uterine cancers.   Image: Source   Her manuscript was translated into Latin somewhere between the 3rd and 5th centuries, and was...

Pros and Cons of the American Health Care Act

The Republican establishment has longed to repeal Obamacare basically since it became law in 2009. Conservative politicians have centered their campaigns around repealing the health care law, while President Donald Trump promised to get rid of “horrible” Obamacare during rallies.   Image: Source   On March 6, House Republicans revealed Obamacare’s potential replacement: The American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill has quickly passed through three different house committees before many have had time to fully comprehend its implications. So, who benefits from this new bill and who doesn’t? Let’s list some pros and cons.   PROS – Repeals individual mandate Perhaps the most central (and most criticized) proposal of Obamacare is the individual mandate. This mandate requires all individuals to purchase health insurance. Although both Democrats and Republicans lauded the idea of an individual mandate when it was a part of Mitt Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts, it quickly came under fire when proposed in Obamacare. Opponents described it as an unconstitutional attack on individual freedom—to them, no one should be forced to buy insurance. This criticism does make sense. For example, if you’re a healthy young person, you might not want to spend a lot of money on health insurance that you probably don’t really need. With that said, for these individuals who are passionate about their individual liberties, the AHCA’s repeal of the mandate is...

Low-Tech Has Major Impact on Laparoscopic Surgery

What is laparoscopic surgery? Laparoscopic surgery, also referred o as minimally invasive surgery (MIS), describes the performance of surgical procedures with the assistance of a video camera and several thin instruments.   Image: Source   Thanks to researchers and small business entrepreneurs, surgeons now have access to a new type of low-tech instrument to perform these complex, minimally invasive procedures. This technology provides more dexterity, precision, and intuitive control than traditional instruments. It’s also simpler to use, requires less training, AND is less expensive.   Watch the video below to see it in action!   Video: Source James Geiger, MD, professor of surgery at University of Michigan, and his colleague, professor of engineering, Shorya Awtar, have developed a low-tech, and relatively inexpensive surgical tool that increases the precision of a surgeon’s hand, arm, and wrist movements during minimally invasive surgery (MIS). The FlexDex platform is designed to improve the accuracy of multiple endoscopic and laparoscopic tools. The innovations in parallel kinematics, virtual center of rotation, and flexure mechanisms comes from research teams at the Precision Systems Design Lab at the University of Michigan.   Featured From: The Doctor’s Channel   Featured Image:...

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