In November of last year the American Heart Association released to recommendations on who should be taking statins (drugs like Lipitor/atorvastatin), the most common medicines we use to control cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels are associated with higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, and taking statins, which lower cholesterol, can reduce those risks. The drugs have pretty significant side effects, though, and not everyone with high cholesterol or ...

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Barron Lerner thinks he understands doctor's motives.  In his recent article in the Atlantic he laments that physicians act on tradition and emotion over adopting new science.  In defense of his position, he sites the example of how cardiologists use angioplasty and coronary artery bypass to treat coronary disease. He states,

... cardiologists have been remarkably slow to abandon the old hypothesis, continuing to perform hundreds of thousands of bypass operations and ...

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I felt a little sad when I read a piece in the New England Journal of Medicine about the introduction of point-of-care ultrasound in medical education. In it, two cardiologists from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital review the promise and some of the challenges of incorporating hand held ultrasonography into medical education and, more broadly, into medical practice. For those of you unfamiliar with the technology, this is not ...

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Back in 1986, the Health Care Financing Administration launched the brave new era of quality reporting in this country by releasing "report cards" that detailed hospital-specific, risk-adjusted mortality rates for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. Since that time, the number and type of publicly reported quality outcomes has grown exponentially with the goal of helping patients make informed decisions when selecting doctors, thereby driving quality improvement by doctors and hospitals. Has ...

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Apps used to monitor blood pressure need better design Here's a design approach that I really, really dislike: the scrolling wheel that is often used for number entry in iOS apps. I find that the scrolling wheel makes it very tiresome to enter numbers, and much prefer apps that offer a number pad, or another way to touch the number you need. (Or at least decrease the number at ...

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When I meet a new patient, I’m frequently astounded by the health care he has received. I’ve met patients with absolutely no cardiac symptoms who have been receiving EKGs every six months for years. I’ve had patients brag to me about their annual executive physicals in which myriad tests including treadmill stress tests and chest x-rays were routinely performed. Patients get head-to-toe CT scans under the mistaken hope that they ...

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This is why doctors practice cover your ass medicine A small case with big implications almost escaped my notice recently  The Boston Globe reported a case in which a family sued after a 23-year-old man died after being diagnosed with a lung infection. According to the Globe, the young man went to one of the Boston emergency rooms complaining of cough, fever, and chest pains.  OK, stop right there ...

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When it comes to high blood pressure treatment in the elderly, the plot continues to thicken. Last December, a minor controversy erupted when the JNC hypertension guidelines proposed a higher blood pressure (BP) treatment target (150/90) for adults aged 60+. And now this month, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that over 3 years, among a cohort of 4961 community-dwelling Medicare patients aged 70+ and diagnosed with hypertension, those on blood pressure medication ...

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Uncle Walt died this morning. Finally. I say "finally" because I believed this day would come four months ago, when he had emergency bypass surgery. At the time, I didn't believe Walt would live; he was an ailing, seventy-seven-year-old man with severe pulmonary disease. When his heart started to hurt one Friday, his doctors told him, "With bypass surgery, you might live. Without it, you'll be dead before the weekend is over." Walt's ...

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Ms. Smith (name changed) is 82-years-old, but currently looks about a hundred. I met her, intubated, in the ICU two weeks ago. She lived alone, hadn't told family she wasn't feeling well, but had called 911. In the emergency department, she was struggling to breath, and was intubated, having gone into respiratory failure. She was found to have a severe pneumonia affecting the majority of both her lungs. She also went ...

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