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Alternatives to mercury dental fillings
December 16th, 2010
05:03 PM ET

Alternatives to mercury dental fillings

Mercury fillings have had a murky history. Used for more than a century, the American Dental Association says they're safe, but all you have to do is google "dangers of mercury fillings" to see that a whole host of people disagree.

Like the dentists' group, the Food and Drug Administration has said mercury fillings are safe, but now an FDA committee is advising a second look at the issue based on  new data.

While the FDA considers whether they want to mull over the safety of mercury fillings, we empowered patients can take action of our own. FULL POST


June 30th, 2010
04:01 PM ET

Why HIV exposure at hospital may have happened

A lapse in protocol for cleaning dental tools is linked to possible HIV and hepatitis exposure at a Missouri veterans hospital.

At issue, reportedly, is that the instruments were hand-washed before being put in a sterilizing machine. But how is that bad?

FULL POST


June 10th, 2010
12:05 AM ET

Uninsured more likely to die during hospital stay, study finds

By Sabriya Rice
CNN Medical Producer

When uninsured patients are treated in the hospital for heart attack, stroke and pneumonia, they are more likely to die from the conditions during their hospital stay, a new study finds.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts investigated the impact of insurance coverage on hospital care, by analyzing the discharge data of more than 150 thousand adults between ages 18 and 64. The study, published today in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, found that compared with hospitalized patients who have insurance, uninsured patients were 52 percent more likely to die in the hospital after a heart attack and 49 percent more likely to die in the hospital after a stroke. Patients on Medicaid were 21 percent more likely to die in the hospital while receiving treatment for pneumonia.

FULL POST


May 3rd, 2010
04:00 PM ET

Mammograms in your 30s: ‘A needle in a haystack’

By Sabriya Rice
CNN Medical Producer

An estimated 29 percent of U.S. women in their 30s undergo mammograms each year, but false-positives and callbacks for additional screenings are frequent, and few breast cancers are detected in women of this age group, a new study finds.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, looked at 117,738 women younger than age 40 with no family history of breast cancer. Women between ages 35 and 39 underwent the highest number of mammograms, yet for every 10,000 women screened in this age group, 1,266 would be called back for additional tests and imaging and 16 cancers would be found. That number more than doubles to 43 cancers detected per 10,000 women ages 45-49, and continues to increase with age.

“The good news is that young women don’t get breast cancer at high rates,” explains Bonnie C. Yankaskas, lead author of the study, and part of the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.  Breast cancer risk increases with age and for women younger than 40, “you’re looking for a needle in a haystack,” Yankaskas says. She says there needs to be serious discussion about the use of mammography in young women who do not have symptoms, to prevent exposure to unnecessary radiation.

The American Cancer Society agrees, saying this study strongly supports their recommendation that screening mammography should begin at age 40 and not earlier. “We have been concerned that some have been encouraging that screening begin at younger and younger ages, when the science does not support it as beneficial,” Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the ACS wrote in a statement. He also notes “it is important to remember that this is a study of women who have no symptoms, and are not at high risk of breast cancer.”

Experts at the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Radiology recommend annual mammograms for women starting at age 40, but also encourage women in their 30s to schedule mammograms if they have factors - like a strong family history of breast cancer, exposure to previous chest radiation or they are carriers of certain genes like the BRCA1 and BRCA2 - which put them at higher risk of developing the disease.

In November 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services task force issued recommendations suggesting women in their 40s did not need routine mammograms. The recommendation led to a firestorm of criticism from those concerned that physicians and insurance companies may stop offering mammograms to women in their 40s. For more see: I want my mammograms!. The USPSTF later updated their language to say screenings for women between ages 40-49 should not be automatic, but should be a decision made on an individualized basis between the patient and her physician.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


April 27th, 2010
12:09 PM ET

Surgical equipment price a shocker

By Sabriya Rice, CNN Medical News producer
and Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent

When Dr. Linda Galloway learned she needed surgery to save her vision, she scheduled the procedure immediately with her ophthalmologist.

What an eye-opener it was when the hospital bill arrived. She noticed several high-priced items, including a charge of $863.20 for disposable forceps.

"Surgical instruments can be expensive but I think $863.20 is really outside of the realm of realistic prices," she complains.

Then Galloway, an obstetrician in Orlando, Florida went online and found similar forceps for $1,155 for a box of six, or $192 each.

"I was outraged. I tried to get an explanation as to why I was charged that amount of money," she said. When she called the billing department, the answer upset her even more.

"They said when you signed consent for the procedure, you allowed us to charge anything we wanted to and therefore, this is what it is," she recalls.

Galloway says she was especially upset because with her insurance plan, she has to pay 20 percent of her medical bill and if the hospital is going address her as a consumer, then she wants them to level the playing field.

"I need to be in power to do things.  If you're going to charge me this amount of money, then I need to know exactly what instruments you're going to use and what medications you're going to use. Because I can then buy them outside and bring them to the hospital."

Florida Hospital, the place where Linda had her surgery says their charges are fair and compatible with other hospitals.

"Like all other hospitals across the country, [Florida Hospital] bases charges on a charge master that serves as a guide,” a spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail.  She says that an independent contractor compares Florida Hospital’s charges with those of other hospitals and that the results show “we are in the mid-range in that pricing structure."

But is markup of more than four times the market rate really reasonable?

According to the American Hospital Association, the prices increases are necessary.

“A hospital is a very expensive enterprise to keep open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and ready for any medical need or emergency. And that does lay out a basic level of cost that has to be captured through the charge structures," says Rich Umbdenstock, president of the AHA.

Umbdenstock says that hospitals have to compensate for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid that traditionally underpay, and that each hospital has to set prices in a way that helps their bottom line.

"The hospital has to be able to bring in more money than it spends or else it won't be there for the next patient.”

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


February 23rd, 2010
02:11 PM ET

Before you send your child to the doctor

By Sabriya Rice
CNN Medical News Producer

Prosecutors announced Monday that a grand jury has indicted Delaware pediatrician, Dr. Earl Bradley on 471 felony counts in the alleged sexual abuse of his patients. Bradley has practiced in Lewes, Delaware, for more than 10 years, and is now facing charges which include, rape, sexual exploitation, endangering child welfare and assault.

How could this happen? Most physicians don't get involved in criminal activities, however sometimes a bad apple can fall through. According to the Federation of State Medical Boards, approximately two hundred of the 735,000 actively licensed doctors in the United States have been found guilty of criminal acts.

In many cases they continue to practice; in some states a license can't be revoked until a witness has testified and the physician is found guilty of the charges. Patients have no way of knowing unless they do their own research.

Parents, here are some things you can do:

1) Find out if your pediatrician has a criminal past:
To find out whether your doctor has been disciplined by a state medical board, here's a state-by-state directory of medical boards.

2) Check your pediatrician's national profile:
Some states explain why a doctor has been disciplined while others don’t, so just searching in your state might not reveal a doctor's history of problems elsewhere. You can also get a national profile on your doctor for just under $10 by searching on the Federation of State Medical Boards website.

3) Get a good recommendation
You can view the American Academy of Pediatrics’ list of recommended pediatricians on their website.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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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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