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Wrightsville Beach Personal Injury Law Blog

Traffic accident deaths up sharply again

North Carolina motorists may have noticed that the roads have become far busier in recent years. American drivers covered 50.5 billion more miles between January and June 2016 than they did during the first six months of 2015, and this increased traffic congestion contributed to a 10 percent surge in accident fatalities according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the equivalent period in 2015. A NHTSA report released on Oct. 5 revealed that 17,775 people died in motor vehicle accidents during the first half of the year, which puts 2016 on pace to be the deadliest year on the nation's roads in five decades.

The Department of Transportation reacted to the sobering figures by announcing a bold goal. The Swedish government managed to cut fatality rates by more than 50 percent over 15 years, but the DOT hopes to eliminate traffic accident deaths entirely within three decades. Experts say that this goal could actually be achievable thanks to self-driving cars that have the potential to eliminate the human error that plays a role in 94 percent of car accidents.

Different types of dementia may be hard to diagnose

As some North Carolina residents know, Alzheimer's disease is being diagnosed at an ever-increasing rate. However, there may be many instances where this diagnosis is incorrect.

One type of dementia is referred to as frontotemporal lobar degeneration. It results in atrophy of both the temporal and frontal parts of the brain. This early dementia affects individuals at a younger age and causes about 10 percent of cases. It occurs as often as Alzheimer's in patients under the age of 65 and is subject to being erroneously diagnosed as that disease.

How peer pressure could impact North Carolina patients

While it is impossible to know how often a doctor will lie to protect a colleague, there is evidence to suggest it does happen. Studies have shown that medical professionals don't like telling patients if a mistake occurs while health care providers are unlikely to speak up if something seems out of place. According to statements given to ProPublica, medical professionals fear retaliation if safety issues are made public.

One man who says that he lied on the witness stand during a medical malpractice trial has spoken out about his experience. Although it is not clear if his testimony played a role in the jury's decision to acquit the doctor, he says that it still haunts him today. The case took place roughly 20 years ago, and the man testified that he hadn't known his colleague's work to be substandard.

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.

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

Butler Daniel & Associates, P.L.L.C.
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Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

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