Health Highlights: June 7, 2007
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Stem Cell Bill Passes Congress, But White House Veto Looms
A bill that would undo federal funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research passed the House on Thursday, but it did not have the requisite two-thirds majority needed to block a threatened veto by President Bush, the Associated Press reported.
The 264-176 vote (210 House Democrats and 37 Republicans supporting), follows on the Senate's passage of the bill a few weeks ago. The Senate ballot was one vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed to sidestep a White House veto.
Because they have the power to grow into any type of cell in the body, embryonic stem cells have long been viewed as a potential source of replacement tissue to treat a myriad of diseases. But opponents of embryonic stem cell research, including President Bush, object to the destruction of embryos as an assault on the sanctity of human life.
Supporting the bill, paralyzed congressman Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., said that, "My education has filled me with tremendous hope, not only that stem cell research might one day lead to a cure for spinal cord injuries, but that one day ... families will no longer watch in agony as a loved one with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's gradually declines," the AP reported.
But in a statement issued last week, President Bush said that if the bill was ever made law, "American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. Crossing that line would be a grave mistake."
Bush announced on Aug. 9, 2001, that his administration would only allow federal funding for research involving a limited number of preexisting stem cell lines. Critics charge that those lines cannot supply the demands of U.S. researchers, and that many of the lines are contaminated.
New Standards Sought for Ultrasound Check of Carotid Artery
Current standards used to measure narrowing of the carotid artery with ultrasound may be too aggressive and cause some patients to undergo unnecessary follow-up tests and procedures, say University of Chicago Medical Center researchers.
Narrowing of the carotid artery is a risk factor for stroke.
The researchers found that current standards, based on older imaging technology, often underestimate the amount of blood flow in the carotid artery. The researchers developed new standards and found them to be more accurate.
"As a result of this, we've changed the standards in our vascular lab," study author Dr. Hisham Bassiouny, director of the Non-Invasive Vascular Lab and interim chief of the university's Vascular Surgery Section, said in a prepared statement. "Hopefully new standards will be adopted everywhere. Such a move will save money and spare at least some patients from unnecessary procedures and tests."
The study was to be presented Thursday at the Society for Vascular Surgery's annual meeting, in Baltimore.
Cancer Patients' Pain Often Poorly Managed
More than one in two (57 percent) of cancer patients in Europe suffer moderate to severe levels of daily pain, and one in five of those patients does not receive any treatment for their pain, says a study presented Thursday at the European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC) Congress in Budapest, Hungary.
The results of the European Pain in Cancer survey, which included 4,824 patients in 12 countries, show that pain has a major impact in reducing quality of life for people with cancer and that pain is often inadequately controlled.
The survey included patients with nearly all cancer types, with the exception of skin cancers.
"The findings highlight disappointing trends in cancer pain management; the medical community needs to get better at understanding that people with cancer are not just tumors to be treated in isolation and that the symptoms of cancer need to be managed as proactively as the disease itself. The fact that the majority of patients surveyed were being treated by oncologists, yet were experiencing pain related to their cancer, demonstrates this need clearly," Dr. Franco De Conno, honorary director of EAPC, said in a prepared statement.
VA Disability Ratings System Needs Overhaul: Report
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs needs to update the system it uses to determine the degree of disability suffered during military service so that veterans receive appropriate compensation and other benefits, says a report released Thursday by the Institute of Medicine.
The report said some parts of the Schedule for Rating Disabilities have not been updated since 1945 and don't adequately reflect types of injuries -- such as traumatic brain injuries -- that are now more common among veterans.
Changes also need to be made so the rating schedule takes into account the impact of veterans' disabilities on their quality of life and all aspects of their daily life. Currently, the ratings program focuses on the ability to work.
"With troops being injured nearly every day, the VA's system for evaluating and rating former service members' disabilities should be as up to date as possible with current medical knowledge of impairment and its effects on a person's functioning and quality of life," report committee chair Dr. Lonnie R. Bristow, former president of the American Medical Association, said in a prepared statement.
"Right now, the Rating Schedule is out of sync with modern medicine and modern concepts of disability," Bristow said.
In 2006, about 2.7 million veterans received $26.5 billion in disability compensation from the VA. In 2007, that's expected to increase to $32.4 billion in payments to 2.9 million veterans.
Wheeled Shoes Linked to 1,600 ER Visits in U.S. Last Year
Popular wheeled shoes cause more injuries than previously believed and were linked to about 1,600 emergency room visits in the United States last year, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday.
Most of those injuries occurred to children, CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson told the Associated Press.
Last week, the CPSC said it knew of at least 64 wheeled shoe-related injuries and one death in the United States between September 2005 and December 2006. The higher injury figures released Wednesday are based on a more recent and thorough analysis of data by agency statisticians, Wolfson said.
On Tuesday, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons posted new wheeled-shoe safety recommendations on its Web site, the AP reported. The academy recommends the use of helmets, wrist protectors and knee and elbow pads when children wear wheeled shoes.
Doctors worldwide have reported treating numerous kinds of injuries -- such as cracked skulls, broken arms, wrists and ankles, dislocated elbows -- in children who were injured while wearing wheeled shoes.
Accidental Deaths in U.S. Increased in 2005
There were 113,000 accidental deaths in the United States in 2005, a 1 percent increase from 2004, says a National Safety Council report that examined state data.
The council said the 2005 accidental death rate of 38.1 per 100,000 population was 12 percent higher than the 1992 rate, the lowest on record, the Associated Press reported.
The increased presence of seat belts and air bags in cars, smoke detectors in homes, and more severe drunk driving penalties have reduced accidental deaths in some categories. However, increasing rates of falls among the elderly and accidental overdoses from illegal and legal drugs are helping boost the overall accidental death rate, said National Safety Council CEO Alan McMillan.
The council said that rates of deaths from falls among people 65 and older increased 31 percent from 1999 to 2003. Between 2002 and 2003, the number of deaths caused by falls increased from 16,257 to 17,229, the AP reported.
The number of accidental poisoning deaths (most caused by overdoses of illegal or legal drugs) climbed from 17,550 in 2002 to 19,457 in 2003.
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