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Wrightsville Beach Personal Injury Law Blog

Promising new technology may help heal spinal cord injuries

Medical research out of Rice University may change the way spinal cord injuries are treated in North Carolina. Researchers at Rice have spent 10 years developing a material made of graphene nanoribbons that may help repair spinal cord damage.

The journey began when researchers discovered a chemical process that unzips the ribbons from nanotubes of carbon. Nanoribbons have dozens of uses; they've already been used to improve batteries, natural gas containers and airplane wings. Researchers have developed a material called Texas-PEG which may help grow neurons.

Study shows radiologists have trouble detecting hernias

Patients in North Carolina hospitals may think that CT scans and MRIs are capable of detecting medical conditions with pinpoint accuracy. In fact, these diagnostic testing methods are not always accurate, and communication between doctors and radiologists may greatly affect test results. At the 2016 Americas Hernia Society annual meeting, a hernia specialist talked about why she did not trust radiologists to diagnose hernias.

According to her, radiologists do not have a good track record for diagnosing both occult and palpable hernias. A study of 159 radiology reports for patients with inguinal hernia showed that occult hernias were diagnosed accurately just 7 percent of the time when a CT scan was used and 33 percent of the time when an MRI was used. CT scans accurately diagnosed palpable hernias with 25 percent accuracy, and MRIs detected palpable hernias with 41 percent accuracy.

What to do if nursing home abuse is suspected

Elderly adults in North Carolina could become victims of abuse while living in nursing homes. There are many different forms of abuse that can occur in a nursing home setting. Nursing home abuse could be outright physical or sexual assault from staff or patients, or it could be serious neglect from the lack of appropriate medical attention.

If a family member suspects that an elderly nursing home patient is being abused, that individual should report his or her concerns immediately. Calling 911 or a local police phone number is only appropriate if an elderly person is in immediate danger. When there are indications that an elderly person was abused before or suffers from reoccurring abuse, a local Adult Protective Services office will handle the case.

Statistics about spinal cord injuries

North Carolina residents may be interested to learn that there are an estimated 282,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the United States. Every year, it is estimated that there are about 17,000 new cases. Approximately 45 percent of cases are incomplete tetraplegia which only affects some parts of the body. About 20 percent and 13.3 percent suffer from complete paraplegia and complete tetraplegia, respectively. The remaining 21.3 percent suffer from incomplete tetraplegia.

The average age of those who suffer a spinal cord injury is 42 years old, an increase from age 29 in the 1970s. Males reportedly account for 80 percent of any new spinal cord injuries that occur. Once an injury occurs, it is estimated that less than 1 percent experience complete recovery recovery before leaving the hospital. Thirty percent of patients are re-hospitalized throughout the following years with an average hospital stay being 22 days.

Genetic tests for breast cancer

North Carolina women may be interested in a study that shows genetic testing is more accurate than traditional tests when determining the risk of early-stage breast cancer spreading. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Aug. 24.

European researchers analyzed the medical outcomes of 6,693 breast cancer patients and found women who opted out of chemotherapy when a DNA test showed a low risk of the cancer spreading had five-year survivor rates similar to women who chose to undergo chemo. Agendia, the Amsterdam company that makes the genetic test, believes the study is groundbreaking and "could change clinical practice." It is estimated that around 35,000 U.S. women with early-stage breast cancer could avoid the ordeal of chemotherapy each year if the test was widely adopted.

Why medical errors continue to be a major problem

North Carolina readers may have heard about a recent Johns Hopkins University report that claims that nearly 200,000 Americans die from medical errors each year. Based on that estimate, medical error is among the leading causes of death in the U.S. Another recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that around 29 percent of Medicare patients experienced some form of harm during hospital stays.

Some mistakes happen because doctors show poor judgment or make bad decisions. However, studies show that most mistakes are caused by system failures, including lack of communication between medical staff, medication errors and mistakes during patient transfers between hospital units.

Preventing cancer medication errors

People in North Carolina who are diagnosed with severe forms of cancer are usually prescribed several medications. In fact, some cancer patients are told to take over 20 different medications, including many that must be injected. For the cancer patients themselves or the people who are caring for them, administering all of the medications as prescribed can be a big challenge.

When cancer medications are taken in the wrong dosage, at the wrong time or as part of a dangerous combination, a patient could be seriously harmed. All medications that a cancer patient is prescribed should be taken exactly as directed, and patients and their caregivers must be especially vigilant if they are dealing with multiple medications. Before taking a medication for the first time, a patient should double check the medication against the prescription to prevent errors.

Scientists hope protein gene can improve rare cancer detection

Medical experts believe that as many as one in 10 patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma in North Carolina and around the country may be misdiagnosed. This rare form of cancer is often discovered in individuals who have been exposed to large quantities of asbestos, and most oncologists have had little or no experience with it. Making matters even more challenging for doctors is that many of the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are also symptoms of lung cancer.

A team of researchers from Hawaii and New York have been studying ways of improving pleural mesothelioma detection rates, and they believe that the protein coding gene BAP-1 may provide physicians with a way of differentiating those with the disease from lung cancer sufferers. The protein was found in all of the lung cancer samples tested by the team, but it was discovered in less than half of the pleural mesothelioma samples tested. The results of the study were published on July 18 in the medical journal Oncotarget.

Doctors often misdiagnose patients with bladder problems

People in North Carolina who have a condition called "painful bladder syndrome" are frequently misdiagnosed. Painful bladder syndrome, or interstitial cystitis as it is called in medical literature, affects about 2.7 percent of women and 1.3 percent of men around the world. Symptoms of the condition include the constant urge to urinate and pelvic pain.

There are several theories about what might cause painful bladder syndrome but no definitive explanations. Some researchers believe that an inflammatory cell is releasing chemicals like histamine in patients who experience it. Autoimmune problems, nerve changes and allergic reactions are other things that some researchers say might be contributing to painful bladder syndrome. Patients with painful bladder syndrome frequently experience other medical conditions at the same time such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and endometriosis.

Survey looks at how surgeons disclose errors

Surgeons are dedicated people who do their best to help patients, so they may take it personally when making a mistake. While this shows that surgeons care and want to deliver proper medical treatment, they could also have a hard time admitting and discussing errors when they occur. North Carolina residents might like to know about the survey taken by more than 60 surgeons from three Veterans Affairs medical centers and published in JAMA Surgery.

National guidelines advise hospitals and physicians to fully disclose mistakes when they happen. An overwhelming majority of the surgeons polled said that they followed five out of eight practices for disclosing adverse surgical events that include explaining why the error occurred within 24 hours after an operation, showing concern, expressing regret and treating problems that result from the event. However, only 55 percent said that they had apologized to the patient or family members or talked about whether the mistake was preventable.

Butler Daniel & Associates, P.L.L.C.

Butler Daniel & Associates, P.L.L.C.
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