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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Thursday, folks! Welcome to the Morning Rounds. For more STAT stories, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook

How states handle malpractice varies wildly

Any given year, about 4 out of 1,000 US physicians will be disciplined for malpractice. But across states there’s wide divergence — in New York, there are just .64 disciplinary actions per 1,000 docs, compared to 7.93 in Delaware. Part of those stark differences might be due to medical boards choosing to take formal disciplinary action less often in some states than others, say experts writing in BMJ Quality and Safety. Medical boards, for the most part, are able to act of their own accord, and the lack of nationwide consistency might mean some malpractice cases will fly under the radar. 

Inside STAT: One man's quest to orchestrate a risky surgery

Stephen Phillips, left, is prepped for surgery. (Stephanie Strasburg for STAT)

As Stephen Phillips was wheeled into surgery last month — facing an operation so brutal, and so controversial, it's been dubbed "The Mother of All Surgeries" — he almost felt relieved. He'd spent five months seeking a surgeon to operate on his appendix cancer, traveling thousands of miles and consulting nine medical teams in seven states. The surgery involved having his organs scraped with electrified wires and then his abdomen filled with chemotherapy drugs. STAT reporter Eric Boodman followed Phillips on his journey over three months — read the story here.

PTSD might lead to dangerous problems in blood vessels

Post-traumatic stress disorder might lead to a dangerous defect in blood vessels, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. People with PTSD have higher risk of heart disease, but researchers aren't sure why. They recruited 67 veterans with PTSD and 147 veterans without the condition and performed a simple test to measure how healthy their blood vessels are. In those with PTSD, blood vessels didn't dilate as well, which would hamper their circulation and up their risk of heart trouble. 

sponsor content by cvs health

Latest perceptions on prescription drug abuse: It’s personal

Two-thirds of US voters believe that the problem of prescription drug abuse is increasing and nearly one in two have firsthand experience, with 41 percent of respondents knowing someone who has abused or is abusing prescription drugs. Learn more about perceptions of this national epidemic, as well as ways CVS Health and its partners are fighting against it.

How your brain mutes distractions could matter to autism and ADHD

Being able to distinguish important sights and sounds from distractions — and being able to focus on the important things you're sensing — could be tied to a gene. New research suggests problems with that gene might play a role in the development of conditions like ADHD that can cause difficulty concentrating. The PTCHD1 gene normally plays a part in muting some distractions you take in, like trees you walk by, which helps your thalamus focus on more important things, like ambulance sirens. A new study in Nature finds that mice without PTCHD1 get bombarded with sensory inputs and make three times as many errors in a concentration test as do normal mice. 

Why naps might be bad for you

Sad science news for early risers everywhere: Taking long naps is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A combined 21 studies on the connection between naps and health. But before you shed a single tear as you yawn over a cup of coffee this afternoon, know that the analysis being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting is just observational; it doesn't show cause and effect. 

Tweaking treatment protocols for teen cancer patients 

Yesterday, rock legend Roger Daltrey told Congress that putting more focus on teen cancer patients, like building special wards for them in hospitals, will also lead to more effective treatments for them. And Simon Davies, who runs Daltrey's Teen Cancer America, told STAT there's evidence of that —  outcomes for teenagers with leukemia are better when there's more emphasis on their treatment needs.

Specifically, teenagers with acute lymphoblastic leukemia used to have less than a 40 percent survival rate when treated with adult protocols — but they have a 60 to 70 percent survival rate when treated with pediatric protocols, according to Dr. Nita Seibel, an oncologist who works with the charity. "If we can encourage more research specific to their needs, we can begin to make real progress," Davies told STAT's David Nather. More on the testimony here

Making treatment easier for some cancer patients

Scans show where there are cancer cells still thriving after treatment. (University of Birmingham)
Patients with cancer somewhere in their head or neck typically have to undergo an invasive surgery after chemo or radiation to make sure all the cancer cells are gone. But researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine say that giving patients a PET scan first could help determine whether they actually need to go under the knife. The study enrolled 564 patients with head or neck cancer who sought treatment in the UK. S0me patients were examined using PET scans, while others weren’t. Only 19 percent of patients went on to have the post-treatment surgery in the PET scan group in the three months after treatment, compared to 78 percent in the control group. 

Inducing sleep after head injury might prevent brain damage

Drugs that induce deep sleep might protect the brain after a head injury, finds new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers enhanced the slow-wave cycle of sleep — which is when you’re in those sought-after REM cycles — in rats with head injuries. Some injuries damage the ability of brain cells to clear out waste like they normally do, but inducing sleep immediately after the injury seemed to reduce that buildup.

“We don't know the exact mechanisms behind our observations,” lead researcher Daniela Noain of University of Zurich explained to me, “but hypothesize that boosting sleep immediately after TBI might be enhancing the clearance of [waste proteins] in the injured brains.” That, in turn, may prevent toxic waste in the brain from building up and causing brain damage, she explained.

What to read around the web today

  • Why signups exceeded expectations in Montana's Medicaid expansion. NPR
  • These are the cities where allergies are the worst. NBC News

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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