Friday, July 10, 2009

Health Headlines - July 10

Heart Patient Death Rates Vary Widely in U.S.: Study

Hospitals in Arkansas, Oklahoma and California have the highest death rates for patients with heart attack or heart failure, while hospitals in northeastern states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts have the lowest rates, says a Yale University School of Medicine study.

Among hospitals across the United States, 25 percent of patients hospitalized for heart failure and 20 percent of heart attack survivors were readmitted within 30 days, which indicates "uniformly poor performance," said the researchers, Bloomberg news reported.

The study authors analyzed Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data on almost 600,000 hospital admissions for heart attack and more than one million admissions for heart failure between July 2005 and June 2008.

They found that a median of 16.6 percent of heart attack patients died within 30 days of being admitted to a hospital. Rates ranged from 10.9 percent in the best-performing hospitals to 24.9 percent in the worst.

The findings indicate "that patients' outcomes are dependent, at least in part, on the hospital that provides their care," study leader Dr. Harlan Krumholz said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg. "If we could better understand how the best hospitals achieve their results and help the hospitals that are not doing as well improve, we could save many more lives."

The study appears in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.


Michael Jackson's Use of White Glove Linked to Lupus: Report

Pop star Michael Jackson's famous white glove and his occasional use of a surgical mask and umbrella to avoid sun exposure may have been connected to the chronic autoimmune disorder lupus.

The singer's physician, Dr. Arnie Klein, on Wednesday told "Good Morning America" that he'd diagnosed Jackson with lupus, a disease in which the immune system attacks the body, causing inflammation, pain and damage to certain tissues, ABC News reported.

What's known about Jackson's other medical conditions may also point to lupus, Dr. Robert Lahita, an autoimmune disease expert and a professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Medical School, told "Good Morning America."

"He had a form of skin lupus, called discoid lupus, which affects about 40 percent of the patients with lupus," Lahita said. Discoid lupus can lead to depigmentation of the skin, among other problems.

"Michael Jackson acknowledged having vitiligo, having splotches of the skin," Lahita said, ABC News reported. Vitiligo is common with autoimmune disease. Patients with vitiligo are normally advised to avoid sun expsoure, which may explain Jackson's use of an umbrella on sunny days.

The white glove and surgical masks may have been used to camouflage the white skin patches caused by vitligo, he said.


Nicotine Patch Before Quitting Smoking Ups Chances of Success: Study

The use of nicotine patches before quitting can double smokers success rates, says a Duke University Medical Center study. The researchers said their findings suggest that changes should be made to nicotine patch labeling, which currently recommends their use only after a person quits smoking.

The study included 400 people who smoked an average of slightly more than one pack of cigarettes a day. Twenty-two percent of those who used nicotine patches for two weeks before quitting abstained from smoking continuously for at least 10 weeks, compared to 11 percent of those who used a placebo patch, the study found.

"People who use the patch before quitting are likely to spontaneously reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke because the patch satisfies their need for nicotine and makes the act of smoking less enjoyable," lead author Jed Rose, director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Research, said in a news release. Nicotine patches also decrease withdrawal symptoms.

The study was published online in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.


WHO Approves 2nd Cervical Cancer Vaccine

A second cervical cancer vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization, a decision that opens the way for United Nations agencies and partners to purchase millions of doses of the vaccine, Cervarix, for use in developing nations, where most deaths from cervical cancer occur.

Cervarix is made by GlaxoSmithKline. The WHO had previously approved the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, made by Merck & Co.

Health officials say the availability of two vaccines could save tens of thousands of lives a year, the Associated Press reported.

Of the estimated 280,000 cervical cancer deaths worldwide each year, more than 80 percent occur in developing countries. Early diagnosis and treatment have greatly reduced the disease's impact in Western nations.

Cervarix is available in 97 countries but has not been approved for use in the United States or Japan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to make a decision on Cervarix in the next few months.


Kolcraft Recalls Children's Play Yards

About a million play yards distributed by Kolcraft Enterprises of Chicago have been recalled because a side rail with a faulty latch can open if a child pushes against it, resulting in a fall.

The company says it has received 347 reports of side rail collapses, resulting in 21 injuries from falls, including one concussion, as well as bumps, scrapes and bruises, reported.

The recalled play yards -- under the brand names of Kolcraft, Carter's, Sesame Street, Jeep, Contours, Care Bear and Eric Carle -- were sold online and at Babies R Us, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Target and other stores across the United States between January 2000 and January 2009. Prices ranged from $49 to $160.

According to the company, retrofit kits are available.

For details on the recall, call 866-594-4208 or go to

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