2013

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What parents and teens should know about marijuana

December 30, 2013

In 2012, Washington passed legislation to legalize marijuana use for people 21 and over.  While still illegal for those under 21, it is important to understand how this might affect adolescents and children.

Facts about marijuana and teens:

  • In a 2009 national study, 32.8% of 12th graders had used marijuana in the last year, and 20.6% within the last month.
  • One in eight adolescents who start using marijuana by age 14 become dependent.
  • When prolonged marijuana use starts in the teen years it is linked to a significant drop in IQ points - and the decrease is irreparable.
  • Marijuana can affect memory and concentration, cause or exacerbate depression/anxiety/hallucinations, and negatively affect asthma and other chronic lung diseases.
  • Marijuana is much more potent now than in the past.  In 2012 the average concentration of THC in marijuana was 15% (compared to just 4% in the 1980s).
  • Harmful effects...

Why you should care about fatty liver disease

December 23, 2013

The liver is a vital organ necessary for survival.  It performs crucial functions including protein synthesis and detoxification.  When excessive amounts of fat and lipids accumulate in the liver cells, this can lead to liver injury and cause a disease called fatty liver disease.  Fatty liver disease is a serious diagnosis that has become one of the most common causes of abnormal liver function tests in the United States.   Fatty liver disease is also referred to as Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease or NAFLD.  NAFLD is associated with other diseases which influence fat metabolism, such as type 2 diabetes.

Why is fatty liver disease important?

NAFLD is a single disease seen in both alcoholics and non-alcoholics, especially in those who are overweight.  When a biopsy is taken of a fatty liver, features of liver injury and fat deposit in the liver may be seen.  These findings are of crucial importance as fat accumulation may cause ...

Grieving and the holidays

December 20, 2013

A cancer doctor is very familiar with the anxious and fearful grief that accompanies a diagnosis of cancer. We are less acquainted with the lonely and empty grief that is experienced by those left behind when our patients die. However, when I wear my hospice medical director hat, I am privy to those struggles, and knowing that the loss of someone close is particularly difficult during the holidays, I have chosen to divert from subjects I am more familiar with and rely on the experts at hospice to help me present a meaningful discourse on grief during the holiday season.

For the bereaved, the joyous holidays trigger emotions of great conflict. Every act of preparing for the holidays, once a time of cheer and anticipation, becomes another stabbing reminder of ones loss. The demands of family and friends, always a bit stressful around Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year, now are overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. Traditions, designed to create love and family unity, now see...

Hearing loss and holiday gatherings

December 16, 2013

Holidays are known for gathering with friends and family to celebrate the season and the passing of another year.  For those with hearing loss, these gatherings can be more stressful than enjoyable. Small groups of people around the room all talking at once about how best to serve the cranberries or the beautiful lights that are decorating homes in the neighborhood can be difficult to hear even with a mild hearing loss.  Working to understand what is being said takes a lot of energy and focus and can result in the feeling of isolation, tiredness and depression.

There are things you can do to help improve your communication during these otherwise festive times.  No matter your hearing abilities, good communication strategies are always helpful when you are talking to others while cooking in a busy kitchen, gathered around the warm fireplace or sitting across the dinner table.  The Better Hearing Institute 0 comment(s)|Read More

9 tips for avoiding holiday weight gain

December 14, 2013

Amongst the cheer and merriment, often come unwanted extra pounds that sneak their way around our waistlines. The span between Thanksgiving and New Years are filled with traditions and an extra average weight gain of 1-2 pounds. It may not sound like much, but consider over the course of a decade that can lead to an extra 10-20 pounds.  That extra luggage then leads to another tradition - the New Year’s resolution to lose weight!

Stop the insanity and start eating smart. Simple lifestyle changes will put an end to the cycle of overindulging, weight gain, and feeling miserable once the season is over. It is said the best offense is a good defense. By practicing these time-honored tips, you’ll likely feel fulfillment without getting overfilled.

1. Plan ahead.

If you know the party you are headed to will lack healthy options (hello, cookie exchange!) have a low-calorie, high protein snack prior to attending a party. This will keep yo...

How to give safe gifts to children during the holidays

December 13, 2013

As the holidays approach, parents often wonder what toys are safe for their little ones.  When making your list and checking it twice, here are some tips to ensure that toys are appropriate for the age and developmental stage of your giftees.

For younger children/infants:

  • Make sure all parts are larger than the child’s mouth.  Most children age 3 and under consistently put toys in their mouth, and some older children do as well.  A small-parts tester, or “no-choke tube” is about the size of a small child’s airway and can be purchased to test parts if you are unsure.  If a part or toy fits inside the tube, it’s too small to be safe.
  • When buying stuffed toys, look for embroidered or secured parts rather than pieces (such as eyes or noses) that could be removed and swallowed.  Remove all loose strings and ribbons.  Avoid animals with stuffing made of small pellets or material that could cause ...

Radiosurgery treatment for brain metastases reduces risk of memory loss and improves survival

December 09, 2013

When a person has metastatic cancer, the brain is one of the organs that cancer cells can migrate to. If this happens, the condition is called brain metastases. The brain metastases will have the same cancer cell type as the primary cancer, such as lung or breast cancer.

If this occurs, radiation treatment is often used to control these areas of disease. Research is finding that utilizing stereotactic radiosurgery as the initial treatment for people with four or less brain metastases is associated with improved survival and reduced risk of memory loss compared to whole brain radiation. Stereotactic radiosurgery ....

Bisphosphonate medications and Osteonecrosis of the jaw

December 06, 2013

Bisphosphonate use has been increasing in recent years.  This is a class of medications that is used to solidify bone mass and prevent fractures.  They fight osteoporosis, but also prevent many cancers from spreading into skeletal bones (bone metastases).  Many patients with metastatic cancers (breast, prostate, renal cell, multiple myeloma, etc.) will require these medications to counteract the devastating consequences of bone metastases.

Bisphosphonates were described as early as the 19th century, and were approved by the FDA in the 1990s for human use.  Fosamax was the first FDA approved bisphosphonate in the USA.   The medications come in an oral (pill) form and an IV version.  Other commonly prescribed bisphosphonates include:

  1. Zometa  (Zolendronate)
  2. Actonel  (Risedronate)
  3. Boniva  (Ibandronate)
  4. Aredia  (Pamidronate)

An uncommon but significant potential side effect o...

Quality & outcomes in cardiac surgery

December 05, 2013

Do all cardiac surgery programs have the same quality outcomes? This is an important question all consumers must ask themselves if they or their loved ones must undergo an operation on their heart. Heart surgery has become increasingly common in recent years. Earlier awareness on the part of physicians and patients, advanced diagnostic testing and an increasing aging population with the inherent prevalence of heart disease has led to this surge in cases. Additionally, cardiac surgical teams are now operating on patients with multiple medical problems and doing more complex operations. Even with these factors, outcomes for patients continue to be optimal at centers of excellence.

But for today’s consumer, how does one choose where to have heart surgery? There are numerous choices both locally and nationally for all metropolitan areas. The consumer must ask: how do I know I am going to get the best of care? Should I go to a center with a “national” reputation? Is it just the doc...

New Brain Stimulator Approved to Treat Epilepsy

December 05, 2013

On November 14th, 2013 the FDA gave its approval for an implanted brain stimulator to treat patients with medically refractory epilepsy. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders affecting nearly 1 in 100 Americans. This device has been under investigation for 10 years at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI) Epilepsy Center.

As principal investigator for the trial, I led  a team including Dr. Michael Doherty, Dr. Lisa Caylor and Dr. Alan Haltiner, along with the research department at Swedish to investigate the safety and effectiveness of the device through pivotal trials. The results showed that the responsive neurostimulator system (RNS) made by NeuroPace was indeed effective in treating patients with drug resistant seizures.

Why is this so significant? This device represents the first new non-medication treatment for seizures proven to be effective since 1997, and gives new hope to patients whose lives have been put on hold due to seizures. ...

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