Archive for the ‘medicine’ Category

Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity.

Monday, July 20th, 2015

I spent an interesting day last Saturday at a USC post-graduate course on “premalignant lesions of the GI react.”

Part of the session discussed the question of obesity and diet. “Fatty liver” is a condition related to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The Wikipedia definition includes.
1. abdominal (central) obesity,
2. elevated blood pressure,
3. elevated fasting plasma glucose,
4. high serum triglycerides, and
5. low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels

Central obesity is not the same as subcutaneous obesity, which is what we all think of. Titters out there is a racial factor with blacks more likely to have subcutaneous obesity without the central obesity involving the liver and internal organs.

Metabolic syndrome and prediabetes appear to be the same disorder, with insulin resistance as a major factor.

Other signs of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, decreased fasting serum HDL cholesterol, elevated fasting serum triglyceride level (VLDL triglyceride), impaired fasting glucose, insulin resistance, or prediabetes.

Associated conditions include:
1. hyperuricemia,
2. fatty liver (especially in concurrent obesity) progressing to
3. nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,a.so called NAFL
4. polycystic ovarian syndrome (in women),
5. erectile dysfunction (in men), and
6. acanthosis nigricans.

It is generally accepted that the current food environment contributes to the development of metabolic syndrome: our diet is mismatched with our biochemistry. Weight gain is associated with metabolic syndrome. Rather than total adiposity, the core clinical component of the syndrome is visceral and/or ectopic fat (i.e., fat in organs not designed for fat storage) whereas the principal metabolic abnormality is insulin resistance.

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Expensive babies.

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Mila

There is a post on Instapundit today about expensive babies.

It references a new book about a premature baby and is named “Girl in Glass.”

That baby was referred to by the CEO of AOL in a speech to employees explaining why he was cutting benefits for all employees. Her care cost 1 million dollars. The Guardian article goes on to complain about US healthcare (of course) and the cost of premature baby care.

I have a somewhat similar story in my own new book, War Stories. My story is not about a premature baby, although I have one of those too, but a little boy who was born with a heart defect that caused an 18 month hospital stay at Childrens’ Hospital in Los Angeles.

Here it is:

Following my general surgical residency training, I spent an additional year training in pediatric heart surgery at Children’s Hospital. During this time I learned more about the amazing resiliency of children and their recovery from terrible illness. I was also reminded of the constant possibility of catastrophic error in medicine. One young patient named Chris was the best example of the tremendous recuperative powers of children. He was coming in for open-heart surgery to repair a large ventricular septal defect. The ventricles are separated by a muscular wall called the septum, which forms during early fetal development of the heart. The heart has four chambers, two atria and two ventricles, which are separated by walls called “septa,” plural of septum. There are a number of major cardiac anomalies associated with the development of the atrial and ventricular septa and also with the rotation of the heart and the connection of the great arteries to the ventricles from which they arise. Chris was born with a very large defect in the septum between the right and left ventricle. In this situation, the newborn goes into congestive heart failure very shortly after birth. The defect causes no trouble before birth because the lungs are not inflated and the blood flow through the lungs is very small. The cardiac circulation in utero consists of oxygenated blood returning from the placenta through the umbilical veins, passing in a shunt through the liver and then entering the right atrium, which also receives the non-oxygenated venous blood from the body. The oxygenated blood returning from the placenta enters the right atrium and passes through a normal atrial septal opening called “the foramen ovale,” which shunts it directly to the left atrium and left ventricle for circulation out to the body. This bypasses the lungs. The venous blood, and the umbilical vein oxygenated blood that does not go through the foramen ovale, enters the right ventricle where it is pumped into the pulmonary artery. There, because of the high pulmonary resistance it goes through another shunt, the ductus arteriosus, a connection between the pulmonary artery and the aorta, to bypass the lungs and circulate to the body. Minimal flow goes beyond the ductus into the pulmonary arteries until birth. During fetal life, the presence of a ventricular septal defect merely eases the task of shunting the oxygenated blood from the right side of the heart to the left and then out to the general circulation.

When the infant is delivered into the world from its mother’s uterus, it inflates its lungs and very rapidly major circulatory changes occur in the heart and lungs. The pulmonary arteries to the lungs, which during intrauterine life carry almost no blood because of a very high resistance to flow in the collapsed lungs, suddenly become a low resistance circuit with the inflation. The foramen ovale, which has a flap valve as a part of its normal structure, begins to close very quickly and the ductus arteriosus, connecting the pulmonary artery and the aorta, also closes within a matter of several hours. These two shunt closures are accomplished by hormonal changes associated with the changing physiology of the newborn. In very low birth weight preemies, that have low blood oxygen concentration due to immature lungs, the ductus often does not close. In the child with a ventricular septal defect, the sudden drop in resistance to flow in the pulmonary circulation together with the closing of the ductus arteriosus causes the shunt, which was directed from the right to the left heart in utero, to switch to a left to right shunt after birth. The pulmonary circulation is now the low resistance circuit and the systemic circulation; that is, the aorta going out to the arms, legs, and organs is now a relatively high resistance circuit. The flow in the pulmonary circuit goes up tremendously, a short circuit in effect, taxing the ability of the right ventricle to handle the load. At the same time circulation to the organs, the brain and the extremities, drops because of the shunt. This combination of circumstances produces acute congestive heart failure in a newborn. Cardiac output is huge but the flow is going around in a circle through the lungs and then back to the lungs.

Chris had a huge ventricular septal defect and as soon as his lungs inflated and the pulmonary circulation began to assume the normal low resistance of the newborn, he developed an enormous left to right shunt and went into heart failure. The venous return from the body entered his right atrium, passed into the right ventricle and on into the pulmonary artery to circulate through the lungs. Once the oxygenated blood returned to the left atrium on its way to the body, it was shunted back to the lungs because the pressure in the aorta and left ventricle was much higher than that in the right ventricle and pulmonary artery. The short circuit in the heart diverted almost all blood flow to the lungs and little went to the body. The right ventricle, which is thin walled and flat like a wallet, cannot handle the load and quickly fails. The treatment of an infant with a large ventricular septal defect and heart failure is to perform a temporary correction by placing a band around the pulmonary artery above the heart. This accomplishes two purposes. One, it artificially creates a high resistance and equalizes the pressure in the right and left ventricles so that the flow across the ventricular septal defect is minimized. The right ventricular pressure is as high as the left ventricular pressure and little or no shunt occurs. This stops the huge shunt and, with the smaller flow, the ventricle can handle the pressure. It also protects the lungs from high blood flow that damages the pulmonary circulation.

In a related anomaly called “Tetralogy of Fallot” a partial shunt occurs but it is the other way, right to left, since the pulmonary artery is severely narrowed at its origin as part of the anomaly. These children do not go into heart failure, but they are blue because of the mixture of venous blood from the right side and arterial blood from the left. Some patients with ventricular septal defect (VSD) do not go into heart failure because the shunt is not that large but if treatment is delayed and a continued high flow through the lungs persists, in later life they develop irreversible changes in the lungs from the damage to the pulmonary circulation by high flow rates. They become blue later as the increasing pulmonary resistance in the lungs reverses the shunt from left to right to right to left as in Tetrology of Fallot. This condition is called “Eisenmenger’s Complex” and, once it occurs, cannot be corrected. Once this reversal occurs they do not benefit from correction and require heart and lung transplantation. Some VSDs are small and do not produce enough flow to cause trouble, at least in childhood.

Chris had a pulmonary artery banding procedure at about two or three days of life and an extremely stormy course for a very long time postop. He was in the Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital for over a year. He had a tracheostomy for much of that time as he was unable to breathe without a respirator for a year. He had intravenous feeding for well over a year. During this time he had several cardiac arrests and the staff became convinced that he would be brain damaged if he survived. Finally, after 18 months in Children’s Hospital, he went home. This had all occurred before my time. Now, 3 years later, he was being admitted for the definitive repair of his heart defect. The pulmonary band is Teflon tape and does not grow so the pulmonary stenosis, which had saved his life, was now a threat, as it did not permit adequate flow to his growing lungs. He was five years old and was joyously normal. His intellectual development, in spite of everything, was normal and he was a very calm and self-confident little kid. He was not afraid of the hospital or of us, the white coat brigade. Most nurses and staff in children’s hospitals and pediatric clinics avoid white coats preferring colorful smocks to reassure kids that we are all regular folks. The kids are not fooled but it does seem to defuse the tension, especially at first. When we would make rounds on the ward for the few days Chris was in the hospital for pre-op checks, he would go around with us. He wore his little bathrobe and sometimes carried charts for us. He was completely unafraid. I don’t know if it was because he remembered his previous experience; I didn’t think that memory would be very reassuring.

Anyway, the day of surgery came. His mother was a nervous wreck because she had come so close to losing him and here they were risking him again. I did not see much of the family on the day of surgery. His grandfather was a famous movie star, one of the biggest box office leaders of all time, and the hospital had thrown a big luncheon bash for the family as they waited. We heard about it and grumbled that they could have spent the money on a better blood bank (we were having trouble getting blood for elective cases), but no doubt they hoped for a big donation. The surgery, itself, was almost an anticlimax. The data from the original heart cath, when he was a newborn, suggested that he had almost no interventricular septum and we anticipated trouble reconstructing a new septum. As it turned out, his heart, in its growth during the past five years, had developed a good septum with a modest sized defect in the usual place. It was easy to patch and the surgery went well. The other worry with VSDs is the conduction system, the Bundle of His, which carries the electrical stimulation to the ventricles, and runs right along the edge of the defect but this was not a problem. There was no sign of heart block after the sutures were placed and tied. Postop we always took the kids straight to the Heart Room, a combination recovery room and ICU. The nurses there knew more about cardiology than I did and probably more than anyone else at Children’s below the rank of associate professor. His mother came in and stood at his bedside for a while just thankful to have him. I never saw the rest of the family although I did meet his father before he went home. He recovered quickly and completely. I had one more encounter with him about a year later.

After his recovery from the heart surgery he had another operation, this time on his leg. He had been in the hospital for so long as a baby with an IV line in his groin that his hip would not straighten out completely. A few months after the heart surgery he had another operation to release that contracture, the scar that had formed limiting his hip movement. It also went well but had been postponed until his heart was fixed. A couple of months after that procedure he was well enough to climb trees. I know that because he fell out of one of them and cut his forehead requiring several stitches. I removed the stitches in the office a couple of months after I started practice in Burbank. He recovered completely and is now an executive in the entertainment business. I have not seen him since 1972.

I don’t know what Chris’s care cost but I think it was worth it. AOL was foolish to self-insure and not buy reinsurance for catastrophic cases like Chris and Mila’s. There are ways to reform health care and to cut costs but they are not what AOL did or what Obamacare did.

Obamacare Lives !

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

UPDATE: The decision is analyzed at Powerline today with quotes for the decision.

The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting. (To cite just one, the Act creates three separate Section 1563s. See 124 Stat. 270, 911, 912.) Several features of the Act’s passage contributed to that unfortunate reality. Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors, rather than through “the traditional legislative process.” Cannan, A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History, 105 L. Lib. J. 131, 163 (2013). And Congress passed much of the Act using a complicated budgetary procedure known as “reconciliation,” which limited opportunities for debate and amendment, and bypassed the Senate’s normal 60-vote filibuster requirement. Id., at 159–167.

Therefore, Roberts rewrote it. Nice !

Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Obamacare state exchange subsidies.

The Supreme Court has justified the contempt held for the American people by Jonathan Gruber. He was widely quoted as saying that the “stupidity of the American people “ was a feature of the Obamacare debate. This does not bother the left one whit.

Like my counterparts, I have relied heavily on Gruber’s expertise over the years and have come to know him very well. He’s served as an explainer of basic economic concepts, he’s delivered data at my request, and he’s even published articles here at the New Republic. My feelings about Gruber, in other words, are not that of a distant observer. They are, for better or worse, the views of somebody who holds him and his work in high esteem.

The New Republic is fine with him and his concepts.

It’s possible that Gruber offered informal advice along the way, particularly when it came to positions he held strongly—like his well-known and sometimes controversial preference for a strong individual mandate. Paul Starr, the Princeton sociologist and highly regarded policy expert, once called the mandate Gruber’s “baby.” He didn’t mean it charitably.

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The book is now on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

cover.

I have a new book out on Kindle that is now published. It is called “War Stories: 50 Years in Medicine.”

I’ve been working on this for 20 years and kept having to revise it as I would put it down and then go back to it after ten years. I finally decided to rework it and publish it two years ago. My students were reading the draft on my laptop while I was editing so maybe it will be interesting.

It is a memoir of patients. They are all patients’ stories that I have tried to describe accurately and to describe what we did then. Sometimes I screwed up and I tell those stories, too. Sometimes we did the best we could and we now know better. Some of these cases are still hard to explain.

Two of them, in the chapter on Melanoma, are about young women who developed major melanoma metastases years after the primary was excised but when they had become pregnant. The melanoma went wild in pregnancy, in one case ten years later. In the other, three years after I had removed the primary, she developed extensive metastases while pregnant. She refused abortion and I thought it would cost her her life. In both cases the melanoma vanished after pregnancy ended. In one case, the woman, last I heard, was free of melanoma 25 years later. The other was free ten years later. The medical literature says pregnancy has no effect on melanoma. Neither ever became pregnant again.

Another case is an example of the only supernatural near-death experience I have ever heard.

The book starts when I began medical school in 1961 and describes experiences with patients, including my summer working with schizophrenic men in 1962. I have a series of stories about patients I saw as a student and sometimes intersperse stories from later that are about similar cases and events. One that is amusing, I guess, is about my very first pelvic exam, on a 40 year old prostitute who had just gotten out of prison and enjoyed it thoroughly. I had a dozen student nurses as witnesses. I do have some biography in it but try to keep it to minimum.

After the first eight chapters, I go on to residency and then finally to private practice. I continued to teach and there are a few of those stories. There is a chapter on ethics including my thoughts on euthanasia and “benign neglect.” Toward the end of my career, I started and ran a trauma center in our community hospital. I also did a fair amount of testifying in court in both trauma cases and some civil cases where I testified for plaintiffs and for defense. I consider it a compliment that Kaiser Permanente had me testify for their defense even though I had also testified against them.

Anyway, the book is on Kindle and I hope somebody is interested. It has some similarity to my medical history book, which I plan to do a Kindle version of once this one is launched. In this one, I spend some time explaining the diseases in a way that I used to explain to patients and I still do to students. Without some basic understanding, most of these stories would not make sense and I hope the explanations are not too dull. If so, all comments are welcome. If anyone likes it, feel free to post a review on Amazon. Two reviewers from the first book in 2004 told me to let them know if I did another one and I have contacted them.

If anyone wants to discuss the book here, feel free to add comments. I guess I should add a link to my medical history book, A Brief History of Disease, Science and Medicine.

Why Doctors Quit.

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Today, Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column on the electronic medical record. He has not been in practice for many years but he is obviously talking to other physicians. It is a subject much discussed in medical circles these days.

It’s one thing to say we need to improve quality. But what does that really mean? Defining healthcare quality can be a challenging task, but there are frameworks out there that help us better understand the concept of healthcare quality. One of these was put forth by the Institute of Medicine in their landmark report, Crossing the Quality Chasm. The report describes six domains that encompass quality. According to them, high-quality care is:

1) Safe: Avoids injuries to patients from care intended to help them
2) Equitable: Doesn’t vary because of personal characteristics
3) Patient-centered: Is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values
4) Timely: Reduces waits and potentially harmful delays
5) Efficient: Avoids waste of equipment, supplies, ideas and energy
6) Effective: Services are based on scientific knowledge to all who could benefit, and it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish

In 1994, I moved to New Hampshire and obtained a Master’s Degree in “Evaluative Clinical Sciences” to learn how to measure, and hopefully improve, medical quality. I had been working around this for years, serving on the Medicare Peer Review Organization for California and serving in several positions in organized medicine.

I spent a few years trying to work with the system, with a medical school for example, and finally gave up. A friend of mine had set up a medical group for managed care called CAPPCare, which was to be a Preferred Provider Organization when California set up “managed care.” It is now a meaningless hospital adjunct. In 1995, he told me, “Mike you are two years too early. Nobody cares about quality.” Two years later, we had lunch again and he laughed and said “You are still too years too early.”

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Obamacare = Medicaid

Friday, May 8th, 2015

emergency

I have been interested in health care reform for some time and have proposed a plan for reform. It is now too late for such a reform as Obamacare has engaged the political apparatus and sides have been taken. The Obamacare rollout was worse than anticipated and it was hoped that the Supreme Court would have mercy on the country, but that didn’t happen and it has been the law for two years.

What has it accomplished ? Well, the forecast drop in ER visits hasn’t happened. It also didn’t happen in Massachusetts when that plan took effect.

Wasn’t Obamacare supposed to solve the problem of people going to the ER for routine medical problems? We were told that if everyone had “healthcare” — either through the ACA exchanges or through Medicaid expansion — people would be able to go to their family doctors for routine care and emergency rooms would no longer be overrun by individuals who aren’t actually experiencing emergencies.

As it turns out, Medicaid patients can’t get appointments with physicians.

“America has severe primary care physician shortages, and many physicians will not accept Medicaid patients because Medicaid pays so inadequately,” said Michael Gerardi, MD, FAAP, FACEP, president of the ACEP.

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Myopia

Friday, April 24th, 2015

myopia

A couple of interesting articles about the increasing incidence of myopia in children.

Myopia isn’t an infectious disease, but it has reached nearly epidemic proportions in parts of Asia. In Taiwan, for example, the percentage of 7-year-old children suffering from nearsightedness increased from 5.8 percent in 1983 to 21 percent in 2000. An incredible 81 percent of Taiwanese 15-year-olds are myopic.

The first thought is that this is an Asian genetic thing. It isn’t.

In 2008 orthoptics professor Kathryn Rose found that only 3.3 percent of 6- and 7-year-olds of Chinese descent living in Sydney, Australia, suffered myopia, compared with 29.1 percent of those living in Singapore. The usual suspects, reading and time in front of an electronic screen, couldn’t account for the discrepancy. The Australian cohort read a few more books and spent slightly more time in front of the computer, but the Singaporean children watched a little more television. On the whole, the differences were small and probably canceled each other out. The most glaring difference between the groups was that the Australian kids spent 13.75 hours per week outdoors compared with a rather sad 3.05 hours for the children in Singapore.

This week the Wall Street Journal had more. There are some attempts to deal with the natural light effect.

Children in this small southern Chinese city sit and recite their vocabulary words in an experimental cube of a classroom built with translucent walls and ceilings. Sunlight lights up the room from all directions.

The goal of this unusual learning space: to test whether natural, bright light can help prevent nearsightedness, a problem for growing numbers of children, especially in Asia.

The schools have tried to get Chinese parents to send the kids outdoors more but it doesn’t seem to work.

And it isn’t limited to Asians.

In the U.S., the rate of nearsightedness in people 12 to 54 years old increased by nearly two-thirds between studies nearly three decades apart ending in 2004, to an estimated 41.6%, according to a National Eye Institute study.

But Asians with their focus on education are the most effected.

A full 80% of 4,798 Beijing teenagers tested as nearsighted in a study published in the journal PLOS One in March. Similar numbers plague teens in Singapore and Taiwan. In one 2012 survey in Seoul, nearly all of the 24,000 teenage males surveyed were nearsighted.

So, what to do ?

Though glasses can correct vision in most myopic children, many aren’t getting them. Sometimes this is because parents don’t know their children need glasses or don’t understand how important they are for education. Other times, cultural beliefs lead parents to discourage their children from wearing them, according to Nathan Congdon, professor at Queen’s University Belfast and senior adviser to Orbis International, a nonprofit focused on preventing blindness. Many parents believe glasses weaken the eyes—they don’t.

Getting kids to spend even small amounts of time outdoors makes a difference.

Why myopia rates have soared isn’t entirely clear, but one factor that keeps cropping up in research is how much time children spend outdoors. The longer they’re outside, the less likely they are to become nearsighted, according to more than a dozen studies in various countries world-wide.

One preliminary study of 2,000 children under review for publication showed a 23% reduction in myopia in the group of Chinese children who spent an additional 40 minutes more outside each day, according to Ian Morgan, one of the researchers involved in the study and a retired professor at Australian National University in Canberra. (He still conducts research with Sun Yat-sen University in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.)

That is a very significant effect of small changes in behavior. Now the researchers are trying something new.

Dr. Morgan, Dr. Congdon and a team from Sun Yat-sen are now testing, as reported recently in the science magazine Nature, a so-called bright-light classroom made of translucent plastic walls in Yangjiang to see if the children can focus and sit comfortably in the classroom. So far it appears the answer is yes.

In 2007, Donald Mutti and his colleagues at the Ohio State University College of Optometry in Columbus reported the results of a study that tracked more than 500 eight- and nine-year-olds in California who started out with healthy vision6. The team examined how the children spent their days, and “sort of as an afterthought at the time, we asked about sports and outdoorsy stuff”, says Mutti.

It was a good thing they did. After five years, one in five of the children had developed myopia, and the only environmental factor that was strongly associated with risk was time spent outdoors6. “We thought it was an odd finding,” recalls Mutti, “but it just kept coming up as we did the analyses.” A year later, Rose and her colleagues arrived at much the same conclusion in Australia7. After studying more than 4,000 children at Sydney primary and secondary schools for three years, they found that children who spent less time outside were at greater risk of developing myopia.

What is the mechanism ? Maybe it is this.

The leading hypothesis is that light stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, and this neurotransmitter in turn blocks the elongation of the eye during development. The best evidence for the ‘light–dopamine’ hypothesis comes — again — from chicks. In 2010, Ashby and Schaeffel showed that injecting a dopamine-inhibiting drug called spiperone into chicks’ eyes could abolish the protective effect of bright light11.

Retinal dopamine is normally produced on a diurnal cycle — ramping up during the day — and it tells the eye to switch from rod-based, nighttime vision to cone-based, daytime vision. Researchers now suspect that under dim (typically indoor) lighting, the cycle is disrupted, with consequences for eye growth. “If our system does not get a strong enough diurnal rhythm, things go out of control,” says Ashby, who is now at the University of Canberra. “The system starts to get a bit noisy and noisy means that it just grows in its own irregular fashion.”

Another possible treatment is the use of atropine drops in the eye.

Atropine, a drug used for decades to dilate the pupils, appears to slow the progression of myopia once it has started, according to several randomized, controlled trials. But used daily at the typical concentration of 1%, there are side effects, most notably sensitivity to light, as well as difficulty focusing on up-close images.

In recent years, studies in Singapore and Taiwan found that a lower dose of atropine reduces myopia progression by 50% to 60% in children without those side effects, says Donald Tan, professor of ophthalmology at the Singapore National Eye Centre. He has spearheaded many of the studies. Large-scale trials on low-dose atropine are expected to start soon in Japan and in Europe, he says.

More than a century ago, Henry Edward Juler, a renowned British eye surgeon, offered similar advice. In 1904, he wrote in A Handbook of Ophthalmic Science and Practice that when “the myopia had become stationary, change of air — a sea voyage if possible — should be prescribed”.

More Biology

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

I have been posting some long comments at at Chicagoboyz, and decided to do them as post here. The topic is the future of technology.

I am pessimistic on molecular medicine for several reasons. I have gotten into two nasty debates on evolution at conservative web sites. One was at Ricochet and was nasty enough that I quit going there. There were something like 250 comments, of which about four were friendly. At Althouse, it was a bit better but still very negative, about 4 to 1. I let my membership at Ricochet expire and so can’t find the thread.

Found it with Google.

A sample of comments is here.

No disrespect Mike but I think you are suffering from the same problem that a lot of people suffer from. The inability to factor faith into the intellectual equation. It is possible to understand and embrace the science of evolution and apply the knowledge gleaned from it even if you aren’t 100% sure we have the story right.

I 100% believe the story of creation in the Bible, but I have no problem understand the evolution of the sickle cell trait. In the same way I have no problem believing Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead or healed the server of a Roman centurion from miles away even though these things seen completely at odds with medical science.

That doesn’t even take into account the anti-GMO lefties who seem to be more accepting of human modification than with plants.

In both cases, I got into it by commenting that I would not write a letter of recommendation for a student applying to medical school who did not believe in evolution. I tried to make the point that I am not the king of medical school admissions but it was no help.

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Psychiatry and the “deinstitutionalism” movement.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

There is a piece in the City Journal this quarter about the New York state experience with psychotic citizens and the prison system. Years ago, I wrote a book about my experiences in medical school and still have some thoughts of publishing it as an e-baook. Chapter One included my own experience working in a psychiatric hospital before the changes took place that put the mentally ill on the streets.

In June of 1962 I was released from active duty. A place in the 1962 first year medical school class had been held for me, but I needed a job for the summer until classes resumed in September. I came across an ad in a Los Angeles paper for medical students to work at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles. I was a medical student, albeit one with only a month of medical school under my belt, and I responded to the ad. I got the job, which consisted of performing annual physical examinations on patients in the closed psychiatric ward of the VA Hospital in West Los Angeles. My first experience with patients then was with chronic schizophrenics in a VA hospital.

As I entered upon my new duties at the VA hospital I had more experience than one would expect of a one-month medical student because I had been a corpsman for three years (only one on active duty). Nonetheless, performing annual physicals on 200 psychotic adult men was a daunting task. The psychiatry attending staff and residents decided that they would not do these required physicals because they thought physical contact would interfere with their relationship with the patients. These were the days of Psychoanalysis in psychiatry and examining or even touching patients was considered harmful. They chose medical students to do the task, and I was hired along with a few others. I reported to Building 206 on the Sawtelle Veteran’s Administration Hospital campus about the 15th of June to start my job. Building 206 housed 200 patients, all but a few of whom were chronic schizophrenics. There was one elderly black gentleman who suffered from tertiary syphilis (also called “General Paresis of the Insane” in the old days) contracted during the First World War. He had been a Veteran’s Administration Hospital patient since about 1928. The remainder was from World War II and Korea. The second floor of the building was a locked ward where patients were not allowed out on the grounds without being accompanied by a staff member. There was even a locked room on that floor where patients were confined in strait jackets if they were too agitated to be free on the locked ward. The first floor patients were in an “open ward” where they were allowed to go to the canteen and to go about the grounds of the hospital but were not allowed off the hospital grounds without a pass. If someone left without a pass he had “eloped.” There was one building on the hospital campus with a higher level of security than Building 206, but these patients of mine were chronically psychotic and not allowed to wander about freely except when they were on pass. It was an interesting experience for a first year medical student.

The VA Psych hospital was called The Sawtelle Veterans Home at one time.

The VA Psych hospital was north of Wilshire and evidence of the psych hospital is not easy to find.

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Case #1 Ebola

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

The early information of the Ebola patients in Dallas seems to suggest that competence has not been high on the list of priorities. First, the patent seems to have known about his illness before he got on the plane to the US. He lied to the authorities in Liberia but that is not that unusual. All it takes is ibuprofen to evade the screening at the airport.

Second the treatment of the relatives Has finally become humane after days of cruel treatment including quarantine in a contaminated apartment.

The initial treatment was not a model of infectious disease protocol. Why he was sent home with a GI illness and a history of travel to Liberia is still not explained. My medical students are all told to take a history of travel with any GI illness symptom. It’s not clear who he saw but many ERs use Nurse practitioners or PAs to see ER patients.

He is not doing well and he seems to be declining. We will see how he does but his relatives are still in serious trouble. We are still in trouble.

The promised treatment program is still inadequate. Tomorrow will bring more bad news.

A CDC official said the agency realized that many hospitals remain confused and unsure about how they are supposed to react when a suspected patient shows up. The agency sent additional guidance to health-care facilities around the country this week, just as it has numerous times in recent months, on everything from training personnel to spot the symptoms of Ebola to using protective gear.

This is only the first case.

UPDATE: More news from Bookworm.

Ebola can transmit through people’s skin. It’s not enough to keep your hands away from your nose and mouth. If someone’s infected blood, vomit, fecal matter, semen, spit, or sweat just touches you, you can become infected. Even picking up a stained sheet can pass the infection. Additionally, scientists do not know how long the virus will survive on a surface once it’s become dehydrated. The current guess is that Ebola, unlike other viruses, can survive for quite a while away from its original host.

Oh oh. This explains the infection of hospital workers in Nigeria from urine.

The good news, if any, is this:

If patients get Western medicine that treats the symptoms — drugs to reduce fever and to control vomiting and diarrhea, proper treatment if the body goes into shock, and blood transfusions — the mortality rate is “only” 25% — which is still high, but is significantly lower than the 70%-90% morality in Africa, where patients get little to no treatment.

I will update this as news becomes available.

UPDATE #2

Now we have a possible case #2

A patient with Ebola-like symptoms is being treated at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., a hospital spokesperson confirmed late Friday morning.

The patient had traveled to Nigeria recently.

That person has been admitted to the hospital in stable condition, and is being isolated. The medical team is working with the CDC and other authorities to monitor the patient’s condition.

“In an abundance of caution, we have activated the appropriate infection control protocols, including isolating the patient,” said hospital spokesperson Kerry-Ann Hamilton in a statement. “Our medical team continues to evaluate and monitor progress in close collaboration with the CDC and the Department of Health.”

No final word yet. Then, of course, we have the NBC case.

Thursday, news broke that a freelance NBC cameraman covering the outbreak in Monrovia, Liberia had tested positive for Ebola after experiencing symptoms of the disease.

The cameraman, Ashoka Mukpo, had been working with chief medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman. NBC News is flying Mukpo and the entire team back to the U.S. so Mukpo can be treated and the team can be quarantined for 21 days.