Groundbreaking Alzheimer’s Trial Featured on CBS News

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 26, 2015

Reisa A. Sperling, MD

Helene lost her mother to Alzheimer’s. Now, her sister is battling the disease. While Helene is not showing symptoms, scans of her brain show the buildup of amyloid plaques that are believed to lead to the development of Alzheimer’s.

CBS News interviewed Helene, who is participating in a groundbreaking international clinical trial that is the first to examine early treatment of older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease – with the hope of preventing memory loss before it begins. Led by Dr. Reisa Sperling, Director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s Disease (A4) Study is for people without symptoms, but whose brain scans show the buildup of amyloid plaques. The A4 study is currently enrolling 1,000 participants at 60 sites in the United States, Canada, and Australia. To learn more about the A4 study and other studies for Alzheimer’s disease, please contact the BWH Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment.

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Hydration for Runners

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 24, 2015

Adequate hydration can improve recovery, minimize injury and cramping, and maximize performance.

Today’s post from Kate Sweeney, MS, RD, LDN, is about hydration, an important topic for runners who, despite the cold weather, are getting ready for the upcoming Boston Marathon. Kate, a member of the Women’s Sports Medicine team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has extensive experience in sports nutrition and is particularly interested in how nutrition affects athletic performance.

Maintaining hydration as a runner is important for health and performance. Water regulates our body temperature, removes waste, helps brings energy to our cells, and cushions our joints. Adequate hydration can improve recovery, minimize injury and cramping, and maximize performance.

When we run, we generate twenty times more heat than when we are at rest. We avoid cooking ourselves by sweating, which cools our bodies. However, sweating also leads to loss of water and electrolytes, including sodium and potassium. In fact, losing more than two to three percent of our body weight through fluid (3-5 pounds for a 150-pound person) can lead to dehydration. When we are dehydrated, we may be tired, get headaches, cramp, and have an increased heart rate. Performance can suffer.

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Top Ten Health Care Innovations for 2015

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 19, 2015

Brigham Innovation Hub is a resource center for new and experienced innovators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Subscribers to the Brigham Innovation Hub blog, which include BWH clinicians and members of the health care innovation community, were asked to vote on the health care innovations they believe will have the biggest impact on patient care. Innovations that increased patient engagement, reduced costs, and advanced digital health technology led the rankings among the 450 subscribers who voted.

1. Use of “Big Data” to reduce the costs for high-cost patients

Only five percent of patients account for about half of all U.S. health care spending. Analysis of large patient data sets can help providers better understand the health care needs of this small segment of patients, identify any gaps in their care, and adjust care accordingly. The result is improved quality of care at lower cost.

2. Financial incentivizing of healthy behavior by employers

Companies are spending more on health care than they did five years ago.  As a result employers are working to help their employees live healthier. Nearly half of employers now offer wellness programs. Financial incentives are also being used to encourage participation in these programs.


3. Innovations for managing outpatient behavioral health

Up to 30 percent of Americans have a mental health condition but less than a quarter of them seek help. Hospitals partnering with outpatient mental health agencies create a teamwork approach to patients in crisis. The link can seamlessly transition patients in and out of the appropriate facilities when an episode occurs. The use of telepsychiatry is also on the rise, providing counseling services to remote patients.


4. Expanded use of telehealth and digital health by clinicians

The expansion of coverage for telehealth services by Medicare coupled with expanded internet access is making telemedicine a viable option for delivering patient care. The addition of imaging and monitoring services offered through digital health services also adds value to telehealth visits.


5. Health care delivery goes retail to increase patient engagement

The move of retail giants like Walmart and CVS into health care delivery is grounded in the belief that improved health outcomes can be fostered in community settings. Learn what BWH is doing to increase patient engagement.


6. Increasing use of “wearables” in hospitals to continuously monitor biomarkers

The use of “wearables” allows for automated, continuous physiological monitoring. On busy inpatient units, sensors can be especially valuable in alerting clinicians of safety issues and sudden medical emergencies. Watch a video with Dr. David Bates, Chief Innovation Officer, to learn how BWH is using technology to improve patient safety.


7. Increased prescription of health apps

Mobile apps allow patients to take more responsibility and interest in their own health. Apps that can reduce costs through remote consultation will be especially valuable. Listen to Dr. David Bates describe how health apps can improve care of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.


8. Care delivery innovation for end-of-life care

The goal of end-of-life care is to reduce suffering and respect the wishes of the dying. The use of telemedicine and digital health could enhance the care delivery of this sensitive patient population. Understanding patient priorities can also preserve quality of life. Read more in “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” by BWH physician, Dr. Atul Gawande.


9. Increased use of 3-D printing

Medical researchers are exploring numerous uses for 3-D printing.  At BWH, 3-D printing is being used to accurately map out the techniques of face transplantation pre-operatively and to follow the progress of patients post-operatively.  This provides better visualization for surgeons and better satisfaction with appearances for patients.


10. Better care delivery and engagement for the newly insured and millenials

The number of Americans born in the eighties and nineties (millenials) now surpass the baby boomers (those born in the fifties and sixties). Earnings of millenials are expected to surpass their parents’ by 2018. To engage this important and growing segment of the population, health plans will need to adopt innovative new technologies by partnering with entrepreneurs.


Angelica R/Jamie R

Beyond the Ebola Epidemic – Lessons Learned

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 17, 2015

The most recent Ebola epidemic has been one of the deadliest.

Ebola virus is a virus that appears periodically in populations mostly in Central and Western Africa. It’s thought that fruit bats and apes are hosts for the virus. Occasionally, the Ebola virus jumps from animal populations into humans and causes epidemics.

The Ebola virus can be passed from one person to the next if somebody has had close contact with an Ebola patient, including contact with their blood or bodily fluids, or if they’ve handled the body after the patient has died without wearing gloves or other personal protective equipment.

There have been a number of Ebola epidemics over the years, but the epidemic that began in March, 2014 in Western Africa has been the largest and most sustained to date. It’s also been associated with the largest number of deaths from Ebola virus that has ever occurred.

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New Approaches for Patients with Severe Asthma

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 12, 2015

Asthma is one of the most common chronic respiratory diseases in the United States.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic respiratory diseases in the United States. Most people with asthma do very well with current medications, but there are some patients who struggle despite taking these medications.

In this video, Dr. Christopher H. Fanta, Director of the Partners Asthma Center and a member of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, discusses novel approaches to treatment of patients with severe asthma. These approaches include biologic therapy and an outpatient procedure called bronchial thermoplasty.

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Rotating Shift Work May Increase Health Risks in Women

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 10, 2015

Rotating shift work may increase a woman’s risk of dying from heart disease or lung cancer.

New Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research has found that long-term rotating shift work may increase a woman’s risk of dying from heart disease or lung cancer.

To examine the impact of rotating night shift work on mortality, BWH epidemiologist Dr. Eva Schernhammer and her research team analyzed 22-year medical histories of nearly 75,000 female nurses from the Nurses’ Health Study. The composition of the Nurses’ Health Study – exclusively female nurses – was particularly advantageous for Dr. Schernhammer’s purposes, as many nurses have rotating-shift schedules.

Compared to nurses who never worked night shifts, the researchers found that nurses who regularly worked rotating shifts for 6 to 14 years were 19 percent more likely to die from heart disease. (For this study, a rotating-shift worker was defined as someone who worked at least three nights per month, in addition to shifts at other times of the day.) Women who worked rotating shifts for 15 years or more were 23 percent more likely to die from heart disease and 25 percent more likely to die from lung cancer. The study also found that rotating shift workers were slightly more likely to die sooner, regardless of the cause.

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How Bioinspiration is Driving Medical Innovation

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 5, 2015

Jeffrey M. Karp, Phd

Solving medical problems is extremely challenging. By bringing experts from multiple disciplines together to work at the interface of those disciplines, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are introducing creative new ways to address medical problems.

In this video, Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Director of the Laboratory for Accelerated Medical Innovation, discusses how his research team, including biologists, immunologists, engineers, polymer scientists, chemists, and clinicians, is using bio-inspiration to drive medical innovation. Examples include the team’s study of porcupine quills to develop next-generation surgical staples and spiny-headed worms to construct a new type of adhesive patch for skin grafts.

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When Is It Safe to Return to Play after Sports-Related Head Injuries?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 3, 2015

Athletes should undergo neurocognitive testing before participating in sports in order to establish a baseline of brain function.

Today’s post is written by William Mullally, MD, Clinical Director of the Sports Neurology and Concussion Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Sports participation is the second most common cause of head injury, behind motor vehicle accidents, among 15- to 24-year-olds. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become a major public health concern, and it is the responsibility of the medical community to protect athletes from suffering permanent brain damage. In the field of sports medicine, there remains confusion regarding the term “concussion.” Our main goal is to recognize when head trauma has resulted in a TBI.

In our opinion, the most sensitive indicator as to when a TBI has occurred is a sudden change in mental status. When there is any indication that an athlete has suffered a head injury, the athlete should immediately undergo a medical evaluation, and if there is a suspicion of a TBI or concussion, then the athlete should not return to play on the same day.

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Eating for a Healthy Heart

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 26, 2015

Whole grains are a key part of a heart-healthy diet.

February is American Heart Month, and today’s blog post from the Nutrition and Wellness Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) highlights the heart-healthy foods you should eat regularly. Aside from eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, your diet should include:


The Science:

Scores of studies show that eating nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Packed with nutrients, nuts may help by lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels, improving dilation of blood vessels, and combating elevated blood pressure.

What You Should Do:
  • Snack on ¼ cup or a handful of nuts each day.
  • Add them to salads, stir-fries, cereal, yogurt, and side dishes.
  • Aim for lightly salted or unsalted types to limit added sodium.

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What Causes White and Blue Fingers and Toes?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 24, 2015

Raynaud's disease can lead to severe pain in the fingers and toes.

This time of year brings frigid temperatures. For some people, the extreme cold also quickly turns normally flesh-colored fingers and toes white and/or blue – and can lead to very painful digits.

The discoloration and pain is often caused by a condition called Raynaud’s disease or Raynaud’s phenomenon. For many, it is mild and can be addressed with simple lifestyle changes, such as wearing gloves and warm socks or slippers during the winter months. For others, though, the discoloration and pain can be long-lasting, sometimes even resulting in sores and the ultimate loss of portions of fingers and toes.

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