These are trying times for health care optimists. Despite all the hype surrounding breakthroughs in clinical practice and technology, American medicine is stuck in in neutral. Though the engine is revving loudly, little progress is being made. This unfortunate truth came into clearer light last week when I was preparing lesson plans for the health care strategy course I teach at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. During the first class of ...

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World Kidney Day reminds us of the 850 million people globally affected by kidney diseases. It draws attention to the 1 in 7 American adults managing Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and the 660,000 Americans with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). It also reminds us that kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death in the United States. But perhaps one of the most important statistics on World Kidney ...

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How did I miss his hypokalemia? Two weeks into my intern year and my patient’s potassium returned at 2.9. Minutes later, he coded. And I felt responsible. As I explained to my partner how my patient had become pulseless after diuresis of his heart failure, she looked at me and said, “Physicians kill patients, it’s inevitable. Has no one told you it’s part of the job?” There is truth to this ...

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Last week I had a patient with mild kidney disease and a high potassium. I thought that it would be easy to take care of. We called around to all the pharmacies from Bangor to Ellsworth to Belfast, and nobody had Kayexalate, the time-tested antidote, in stock. It happened to be on a Tuesday night with my Suboxone group starting at 5 o’clock. The patient had been there since 4; his ...

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Before I could see her, I could hear her. My patient, a young woman with messy braided hair, was grunting with every effort to breathe. The noises quieted slightly when I reached her bedside, but her tears continued to fall between gasps. Her body movements were exaggerated, rooted in the rhythm of her labored breathing — several violent shudders with every expansive inhale, and a wave of quivers with every ...

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As a family physician, I treat patients of all ages – children to those nearing 100 years old. One issue that plagues young and old alike is lack of sleep. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2016 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, more than one-third of American adults do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. This is a common ...

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Test your medicine knowledge with the MKSAP challenge, in partnership with the American College of Physicians. A 53-year-old woman is evaluated during a routine follow-up visit. Medical history is significant for hypertension and chronic active hepatitis B infection. Her hepatitis B infection has been treated with tenofovir for the past 5 years with suppression of her serum hepatitis B DNA levels. She currently notes mild ...

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A number of media outlets recently featured a story about a Florida general surgeon who removed a normal kidney from a woman who was undergoing spine surgery. How could this have occurred? The 51-year-old patient who had been injured in a car crash was scheduled for an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) of the fifth lumbar to the first sacral vertebra. The general surgeon’s role was to provide ...

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About one in fifty people reading this essay will be diagnosed with kidney cancer at some time in their life. In fact, one out of one people writing this essay has already been diagnosed with kidney cancer. (I had a small tumor removed from my left kidney not long after I turned 50.) But how many people diagnosed with kidney cancer have been overdiagnosed with the condition? And what does moving to Florida have ...

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Late one Friday night while walking the long and lonely hallways of my hospital, my mind wandered back several years. I recalled my first weekend call as an eager, newly minted nephrology attending. I had met one of my colleagues earlier that morning in the doctors’ lounge, whereupon I had been handed a clunky, black weekend pager. “Welcome to being on call every fourth weekend for the rest of your ...

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