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The curious brain impalement of Phineas Gage
These computer-generated models show how the rod went through in Gage's skull.
May 16th, 2012
05:05 PM ET

The curious brain impalement of Phineas Gage

If you survived a 43-inch-long iron rod shot through your skull, people would still be talking about you more than 150 years later too.

Journey back a moment to September 13, 1848. Phineas Gage, 25, was working as a railroad construction supervisor in Vermont. In preparation for the Rutland and Burlington Railroad that was to be laid down, he was blasting and removing rock. But an explosion went awry, shooting a 13-pound iron rod through Gage's left cheek, passing behind his left eyeball and through his brain.

The fateful rod was found later "smeared with blood and brains," according to reports about the case.

Gage survived for almost 12 years after this accident, but people who knew him said he was no longer himself - he exhibited personality and behavior changes.

He couldn't come back to his railroad job, so he took up some manual labor jobs. He ended up traveling in New England and down to Valparaiso, Chile; his iron rod never left his side. He rejoined his family in San Francisco and died on May 21, 1860, probably because of seizures connected to the freak accident.

Now, scientists have new insights into Gage's brain.

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Popular antibiotic linked to higher risk of heart disease death
May 16th, 2012
05:01 PM ET

Popular antibiotic linked to higher risk of heart disease death

It's one of the most popular antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections, but a new study suggests for some people taking azithromycin, commonly referred to as a "Z-pack", could be very dangerous.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University looked at the records of thousands of Tennessee Medicaid patients over a period of 14 years.  They found a 2.5-fold higher risk of death from heart disease in the first five days of using Z-pack when compared to another common antibiotic or no antibiotics at all.

The study was published in the current edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

People with underlying heart problems seem to be especially vulnerable, says Wayne Ray, professor of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt and the study's lead researcher.
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Questions linger about long-term impact of hits to the head
May 16th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Questions linger about long-term impact of hits to the head

During a recent debate addressing whether the United States should ban college football, an argument against the sport was summed up this way: Schools should not be in the business of encouraging young men to hit themselves over the head.

The reasoning behind that argument (by New Yorker magazine staff writer Malcolm Gladwell): Concussions are not what afflicts football, rather it is the cumulative effects of punishing, comparatively subtle, subconcussive hits.

"There isn't a helmet in the world that can be designed to take the sting out of those hits," said Gladwell, at the Intelligence Squared Debate hosted by Slate Magazine in New York last week. "What's the effect of all that neurological trauma? We know it's a condition called CTE."
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New data on the health of these United States
More physicians generally leads to better, or at least more available, health care for a state's population.
May 16th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

New data on the health of these United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released their annual health report for 2011 on Wednesday. The report contains more than 150 data tables on the U.S. population's well-being, with a special focus on socioeconomic status.

Here are a few of the interesting tidbits we found. For more, visit www.cdc.gov.

The Bible Belt needs more doctors. On average, there were 25 physicians for every 10,000 people in the U.S. in 2009. The Northeast, Hawaii and Minnesota had the highest ratio of doctors to patients, while states in the South and Rocky Mountain-areas had fewer than 21 per 10,000.

Your education level affects your kids' weight. The CDC collected data on childhood obesity between 2007 and 2010. Where the head of the household had a college degree, 7 to 11% of children aged 2 to 19 were obese. But when the head of the household was a high school dropout, 22 to 24% of the children were obese.

Cigarette smoking is still on the decline. In 2010, 19% of U.S. adults smoked, down 2% from 2009. Over the last decade cigarette smoking among students in 12th grade has decreased from 33% to 22% for male students and from 30% to 16% for female students.

Fewer teens are giving birth. Between 1998 and 2008, birth rates declined 27% for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17.
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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