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Studies show cement fix on spinal bones not effective

A treatment that uses medical cement to fix cracks in the spinal bones of elderly people worked no better than a sham treatment, the first rigorous studies of the popular procedure show.

Pain and disability were about the same up to six months later.

The treatment is so widely thought to work that the researchers had a hard time getting patients to take part when it was explained that half of them would not get the real thing.

“All of us who do the procedure have seen apparently miraculous cures,” said Dr. David Kallmes, a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic who led one of the studies. But he said there were also “miraculous cures” among those who got the fake treatments.

The researchers said it is yet another example of a medical procedure coming into wide use before good studies are done to show that it is safe and effective.

About 750,000 Americans suffer painful compression fractures in the spine each year. Bone-thinning osteoporosis is the most common cause. There are about 80,000 bone cement procedures done in the United States each year, Kallmes said.

Medicare pays $1,500 to $2,100 for the procedure.

The findings were published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Study – Texting increases risk of crashes

The first study of drivers texting inside their vehicles shows that the risk sharply exceeds previous estimates based on laboratory research and far surpasses the dangers of other driving distractions.

The new study, which entailed outfitting the cabs of long-haul trucks with video cameras over 18 months, found that when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which compiled the research and plans to release its findings today, also measured the time that drivers take their eyes from the road to send or receive texts.

In the moments before a crash or near-crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field.

Even though trucks take longer to stop and are less maneuverable than cars, the findings generally applied to all drivers, who tend to exhibit the same behaviors as the more than 100 truckers studied, researchers said.

Compared with other sources of driver distraction, “texting is in its own universe of risk,” said Rich Hanowski, who oversaw the study at the institute.

Hanowski said the texting analysis was financed by $300,000 from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which has the mission of improving safety in trucks and buses. The final analysis of the data is undergoing peer review before formal publication.

Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech institute, one of the world’s largest vehicle safety research organizations, said the study’s message was clear.

“You should never do this,” he said of texting while driving. “It should be illegal.” Thirty-six states do not ban texting while driving; 14 do, including Alaska, California, Louisiana and New Jersey. In Austin, City Council Member […]

By |July 28th, 2009|Safety|0 Comments|

Study – Austin has unsafe drivers

Allstate America’s fifth annual ranking of U.S. cities for safe driving puts Austin in a familiar position – far behind almost everyone else.

According to the study, Austin finished 179th out of 193 cities ranked.

On average, the Austin-area driver will have an accident once every seven years.  In 2005, the study’s first year, Austin ranked 176th of 196 cities, with a wreck every 7.5 years for the average driver.

The national average, based on accident claims made in 2006 and 2007 against Allstate insurance policies in which there was property damage, was an accident about once in 10.1 years.

By |July 16th, 2009|Safety|0 Comments|

Study – Checklists Cut Surgery Deaths in half

Scrawl on the patient with a permanent marker to show where the surgeon should cut. Ask the person’s name to make sure you have the’ right patient. Count sponges to make sure you didn’t leave any in the body.

Doctors worldwide who followed a checklist of such steps cut the death rate from surgery almost in half and reduced complications by more than a third in a large international study of how to avoid blatant operating room mistakes.

The results most dramatic in developing countries — startled the researchers. “I was blown away,” said Dr. Atul Gawande, a Harvard surgeon and medical journalist who led the year-long, eight-nation study, published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.

U.S. hospitals have been required since 2004 to take some of these precautions. But the 19-item checklist used in the study was far more detailed than what is required or what many institutions do: The researchers estimated that implementing the longer checklist in all U.S. operating rooms would save between $15 billion and $25 billion a year in the costs of treating avoidable complications.

“Most of these things happen most of the time for most patients, but we need to make it so that all these things happen all the time for all patients, because each slip represents an opportunity for harm,” said Dr. Alex Haynes of the Harvard School of Public Health, one of the study’s co-authors.

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