When Should Blood Pressure Medication be Started?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 1, 2015

Recent findings may influence how doctors think about high blood pressure management.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the most common risk factor for heart disease and death worldwide, but key questions about management of hypertension have remained unanswered. In a recent study funded by the Harvard Center for Primary Care and published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) examined the outcomes of nearly 90,000 adults with hypertension to pinpoint the precise high-blood-pressure level and critical time points at which intervening was tied to a decrease in the risk of death and/or cardiovascular event, such as heart attack or stroke.

“We were the first to look at these metrics in a large group of patients with hypertension, and our findings may help guide doctors as they think about how to treat patients,” says Dr. Alexander Turchin, a physician and researcher in the BWH Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension and senior author of the paper.

Read More »

Deceptively Dangerous – Avoiding Burn Injuries from Sparklers

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 30, 2015

Sparklers can burn at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, potentially causing serious burns.

Last summer, Marissa Keane, a Project Manager in the Marketing Department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), was looking forward to relaxing with friends and family at a July 4th celebration in a nearby state. Instead, her evening ended with second-degree burns and a visit to an urgent care center.

During the celebration, someone standing near Marissa began waving a sparkler. The motion tossed a spark onto Marissa’s clothing. Fortunately, Marissa noticed what happened before her blouse completely ignited. Still, she suffered a serious burn on her chest that required medical treatment.

Marissa’s experience is an important reminder about the dangers of sparklers, an iconic symbol of July 4th celebrations. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks-related injuries result in an average of 240 daily visits to the emergency room in the thirty days surrounding the July 4th holiday. Nearly one-third of these injuries are due to sparklers. That’s not surprising when you consider that sparklers can burn at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fireworks are banned in Massachusetts, though you may be traveling to a state where sparklers and other fireworks are allowed. Dr. Raghu Seethala, Associate Director of Trauma in the Emergency Department at BWH, offers these tips to avoid injuries from sparklers or fireworks:

Read More »

Join the 50 Million Faces Campaign

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 25, 2015

Help inspire hope and drive research to find cures for five of the most complex neurologic diseases of our time.

“Nothing can prepare you for the moment when your mother looks into your eyes and asks you what your name is,” says Amy Erickson. “I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s in 2007, but truth be told, I lost her a little bit at a time for 10 years.”

Amy is one of millions around the world who have faced the devastating effects of neurologic diseases – either through a loved one’s illness or through their own personal experience.

To give Amy and others like her a platform to share their stories, the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) launched the social media campaign 50 Million Faces (#50MillionFaces) in late April.

Read More »

What Is Cardiac Amyloidosis?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 23, 2015

The green areas in the picture above represent a buildup of amyloid in the heart of a patient with senile amyloidosis.

Cardiac amyloidosis is a dangerous and progressive disease that is not yet well understood. As it is quite rare and produces symptoms very similar to other heart diseases, it is often misdiagnosed.

Amyloidosis refers to a group of diseases, caused by deposits of abnormal proteins (amyloid) that affect one or more organ systems in the body. Buildup of amyloid in the heart is known as cardiac amyloidosis, and whether it occurs solely in the heart or in conjunction with other organs, it is the presence of amyloidosis in the heart that determines the severity and outcome of the disease and its treatments.

To promote effective and efficient treatment and a better understanding of the disease among physicians and patients, Brigham and Women’s Hospital established the multidisciplinary Cardiac Amyloidosis Program that draws upon the expertise of some of the country’s leading cardiology specialists. The program is led by noted cardiac amyloidosis expert Rodney H. Falk, MD, who, in the video below, discusses the importance of early diagnosis and the progress being made in caring for patients with the disease.

Read More »

Diabetes 2.0 – Next-Generation Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 18, 2015

Endocrinologist Dr. Marie McDonnell

Diabetes is an increasingly common disease. Overall, approximately nine percent of all Americans have diabetes. Over the age of 65, the prevalence of diabetes is even higher, affecting as many as one-fourth of these adults.

Diabetes is a disease that affects many organ systems over time. As a result, it’s important that patients adhere to their medications. This can be challenging, however, due to the side effects that many patients experience with their diabetes medications.

In the video below, Dr. Marie E. McDonnell, Director of the Diabetes Management Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), describes BWH research focused on helping physicians select existing diabetes therapies more precisely, based on patient characteristics, to improve outcomes and minimize side effects. She also describes the development of a “bionic” pancreas” in several centers around the world, a device that continuously monitors a patient’s insulin levels and automatically delivers the appropriate level of insulin. Other novel programs being studied in the diabetes research community include beta cell restoration and islet cell transplantation.

Read More »

Differentiating Mild Traumatic Brain Injury from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 16, 2015

PTSD and mTBI share many symptoms, such as depression, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) are collaborating to develop a reliable method for determining whether a patient has mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),or both conditions.

Although PTSD is a psychological condition, and mTBI is a neurological disorder caused by physical trauma, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two. This is because they share many symptoms – depression, mood swings, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems – an overlap that can lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment.

Read More »

Urethral Stricture – What You Need to Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 11, 2015

Dr. Jairam Eswara

It may be a sensitive topic, but it’s important to discuss urination difficulties with your doctor. Straining to urinate, pain during urination, incomplete emptying of your bladder, or recurrent urinary tract infections may indicate a serious yet treatable urologic condition, including urethral stricture. Urethral strictures are scars of the urethra that block the flow of urine. They typically result from infection, injury, or inflammation and are more common in men than women. Early detection of urethral strictures is recommended to prevent serious kidney problems, recurrent infections, or address male fertility issues.

In the video below, Dr. Jairam Eswara, Division of Urology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), explains how urethral strictures are diagnosed and treated. He also talks about the ongoing research at BWH to evaluate the outcomes associated with procedures used to treat urologic diseases, why these diseases occur, and new ways to treat them.

Read More »

From the Dentist’s Chair to the Delivery Room – Nitrous Oxide for Labor Pain Relief

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 9, 2015

Nitrous oxide is administered as a gas mixture through a mask or mouthpiece.

Today’s post is written by Dr. Bill Camann, Director of Obstetric Anesthesiology, and Kate McGovern, RN, MSN, CNM, Clinical Educator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Nitrous oxide, often called “laughing gas,” was discovered in the late 1700s. It was originally used to relieve pain during dental surgery. Today, it is widely used for labor pain in the United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Its use in the relief of labor pain is also gaining popularity in the United States. It is considered to be generally safe for both the mother and her baby.

At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we began offering nitrous oxide as an option for labor pain relief in August 2014. Though many of our patients who use nitrous oxide still request an epidural anesthetic as their labor progresses, a large number experience significant pain relief without an epidural. These women have found that nitrous oxide, when used alone or in combination with other non-medical pain relief options, such as hydrotherapy, supportive care, or relaxation techniques, are able to achieve their goal of a comfortable childbirth.

Read More »

Speeding up Treatment Decisions for Blood Cancer Patients

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 4, 2015

Genetic mutations associated with certain blood cancers can be detected by testing blood or bone marrow samples.

For patients with aggressive types of leukemia and other blood cancers, quickly identifying and starting the right treatment can make all the difference. In a major advance in the care of these patients, physicians at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) have begun using the Rapid Heme Panel, a high-tech genetic test that provides, within a week, an unprecedented amount of critical information to aid the choice of treatment.

In this video, Dr. Jon Aster, Director of Hematopathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and one of the developers of the Rapid Heme Panel, explains how the test uses blood or bone marrow samples to search for alterations in genes that are frequently associated with leukemias and myeloproliferative disorders – detecting key mutations that determine prognosis and the specific drugs the cancer is most likely to respond to. The Rapid Heme Panel testing is performed at the Center for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics at BWH.

Read More »

Growing New Cartilage in Novel Clinical Research Study

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 2, 2015

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andreas Gomoll

An active 34-year-old and new father, Sean has been sidelined from physical activity for nearly a year and a half due to severe knee pain. Ten weeks ago, he underwent surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) to implant stem cells derived from the donated umbilical cords of healthy babies to repair a cartilage defect in his knee. The procedure was performed as part of a clinical trial, and BWH is one of only two hospitals in the nation to participate.

“For young patients like Sean, knee replacement is just not a good option,” says Dr. Andreas Gomoll, an orthopedic surgeon who is leading the trial at BWH. “Current options, such as using cartilage cells harvested from the patient’s knee or donor tissue, are good, but they have limitations that we are trying to improve upon with these new stem cell transplants.”

Sean was interviewed by WCVB-TV during his most recent follow-up appointment with Dr. Gomoll to discuss his recovery and plans for the future.

Read More »