Thursday, March 26, 2009

Health Headlines - March 26

Treating Heart Ailments Costs $78 Billion: Survey

Treating heart ailments -- from opening blocked arteries to keeping heart patients alive and caring for them -- cost an estimated $78 billion in 2006, or about 8 percent of the more than $1 trillion spent on all medical care for the community population, a U.S. survey says.

The analysis was based on data in a nationally representative sampling from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, according to an agency news release issued Wednesday. The figures represent the costs for hospital admissions, emergency department visits, visits to doctors' offices and hospital outpatient departments, as well as money spent on home health care and prescription drugs. Among the survey's findings:

  • Hospital admissions took up $43.9 billion, or 56 percent.
  • Visits to doctors and hospital outpatient departments absorbed $15.3 billion, or 20 percent.
  • Outpatient prescription drugs cost $7.9 billion, almost 10 percent.
  • Home nursing and other home care services ran $6.7 billion, or 9 percent.
  • Emergency room care costs were $4.3 billion, or 6 percent.


Overactive Nerves Cause Tinnitus: Study

Australian scientists believe they've identified the root cause of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, a finding that could boost efforts to find a cure for the condition, which is often associated with hearing loss.

The study, conducted in guinea pigs, found that uncontrolled nerve activity within brain areas that process sound results in the noises experienced by people with tinnitus. This increased nerve activity was linked to changes in genes that regulate the activity of nerve cells, BBC News reported.

The finding suggests it may be possible to treat tinnitus by silencing nerve activity.

"Identifying genes associated with spontaneous nerve cell activity is crucial. It means it may be possible to use drugs to block this activity and treat conditions such as tinnitus in the future," said lead researcher Professor Don Robertson, BBC News reported.


Single Embryo Transplant More Effective, Cheaper: Study

It's more effective and less costly to implant single embryos instead of two embryos at a time, says a study that challenges the belief that implanting multiple embryos during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) improves a woman's chances of becoming pregnant and is more cost-effective.

Finnish researchers looked at more than 1,500 women who went through more than 3,600 assisted reproduction cycles. They found the live birth rate was 5 percent higher for women who had a single embryo implanted at a time, compared to double embryo transplants, Agence France Presse reported.

The single embryo method was also less costly, especially when the researchers factored in health complications due to multiple pregnancies.

The study was published in the journal Human Reproduction.

"At a time when there is an intense debate in many countries about how to reduce multiple pregnancy rates and provide affordable fertility treatment, policy makers should be made aware of our results," study lead researcher Hannu Martikainen, of the University of Oulu, said in a news release, AFP reported.

"These data should also encourage clinics to evaluate their embryo transfer policy and adopt elective single embryo transfer as their everyday practice for women younger than 40," Martikainen said.


Many Chronically Ill Patients Report Medical Errors: Survey

A new survey finds that 23 percent of chronically ill U.S. patients and their caregivers report they've been victims of a medical error.

The AARP survey found that 21 percent of chronically ill patients said their healthcare providers didn't communicate well with one another, and 20 percent of patients said their health suffered as a result, United Press International reported.

Among the other findings:

  • 26 percent of chronically ill patients say they lack confidence in the healthcare system.
  • 30 percent say their healthcare provider did not have all the necessary information when they arrived.
  • 24 percent received conflicting information from two or more healthcare providers.
  • 16 percent say they received unnecessary medical tests.

"Health spending for an older person with just one chronic disease is more than twice that of a healthy person," John Rother, AARP executive vice president, said in a news release, UPI reported.

"Chronic conditions are often preventable, and they take a terrible toll on millions of Americans. Our fragmented healthcare system makes it incredibly difficult for chronically ill patients and their caregivers to get the appropriate care they so desperately need," Rother said.

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