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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Running Tips for Cold and Snowy Weather

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

Don't let the cold weather and snow discourage you from running outside.

Today’s post comes from Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, and research assistant Caroline Hu.

As we head toward March, many people are running to support their weight loss resolutions or even training for the Boston Marathon. During these frigid winter months, however, many settle for the treadmill, or even worse, for not running at all. Don’t let the cold weather and snow discourage you from running outside. Winters are beautiful here in Boston!

Here are some cold-weather running tips for staying warm and safe during the winter months:

1. Layering and wearing appropriate clothing is crucial for cold-weather running.

You will want to keep most of your body covered and protected from exposure. Wear synthetic, sweat-wicking clothing as your innermost layer. Wearing moisture-wicking clothing as the fabric closest to your skin keeps your body dry and makes your clothes a better insulator. Make sure you are not wearing cotton underwear or socks. Lycra or polypropylene running tights are optimal for the waist down. Your outermost layer should be wind-resistant and waterproof if it is raining or snowing out. GORE-TEX® is a breathable material and is ideal for your outermost layer. If it is very cold, a fleece liner or a long-sleeve shirt is a good option for a middle layer. Dressing in layers allows you to adapt to the weather during your run. A significant amount of body heat can be lost through the head, so make sure you wear a hat. A balaclava or face mask is a good idea when it is extremely cold. Do not forget to wear gloves as well! After your run, it is important to quickly change into dry and warm clothes.

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Innovations in Chronic Pain Management

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

Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people seek medical help.

Among the many reasons why patients go to see a doctor, pain is most often the primary complaint. This pain may range from an acute strain or sprain to other kinds of pain that are associated with an underlying disease.

The most important distinction between chronic pain and acute pain is that chronic pain is less likely to go away. According to Dr. Edgar L. Ross, Director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Pain Management Center, treating chronic pain should include a multidisciplinary, collaborative care team that specializes in pain management, and a patient who plays an active role in the treatment plan.

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Healthy Brain Aging – What Can You Expect?

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

Normal changes in cognition won’t affect someone’s ability to remain independent and socially active.

It’s common for people over the age of 50 to worry about a decline in their cognitive abilities. Some studies suggest that as many as 80 percent of people over the age of 50 have these types of concerns.

What’s important to understand is that normal changes in cognition, such as taking longer to retrieve information or solve a problem, won’t affect someone’s ability to remain independent and socially active. Changes in cognition are concerning when individuals become increasingly dependent on others to manage their daily living activities as they get older.

Kirk Daffner, MD, Chief, Division of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the J. David and Virginia Wimberly Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, explains what changes people can expect in their cognitive abilities as a normal part of aging. He also outlines steps people can take to promote and preserve brain health throughout life.

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Impact of Healthy Habits on Young Women’s Hearts

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

Research shows that certain healthy habits have a significant impact on heart disease risk.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is good for your heart. It’s not a novel concept, but how much of a difference does it really make?

A team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Indiana University, and Harvard Medical School recently set out to examine how certain lifestyle factors impact the risk of heart disease in younger women (ages 27 to 44 years). Examining this particular segment of the population is significant, as the mortality rate for coronary heart disease (CHD) has plateaued among young American women in recent decades, while the rate for the overall population has declined.

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Patient Engagement is Key for Good Health

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

BWH patients can watch video "prescriptions" (Vidscrips) to learn more about certain conditions.

Visiting your doctor is a vital part of your care, but what you do on your own in between those appointments is equally, if not more, important.  Many studies have proven that people have better health outcomes — and better care experiences — if they are more engaged in their own care.

“Your health behaviors, whether you have the right information when you need it most, how involved you feel in your care, and your ability to self-manage your medical issues all make a great difference in your overall health,” says Dr. Adam Licurse, a primary care physician at South Huntington Advanced Primary Care Associates at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

BWH is introducing numerous new tools and programs that will help patients take a more active role in their health. One example is Vidscrips – an online video software program that allows BWH doctors and other health care professionals to easily record short informative video “prescriptions” that are specific to certain conditions, like diabetes or hypertension, or topics relevant to specific patients, such as pregnant women. Since Vidscrips launched at South Huntington Primary Care earlier this year, Dr. Licurse has prescribed his videos about 50 times, and they have been viewed more than 400 times. In addition to Primary Care, Vidscrips helps to answer questions and provide information to pregnant patients between visits and to deliver detailed instructions for post-operative and post-discharge care to neurosurgical patients.

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New Model of Primary Care: The Patient-Centered Medical Home

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

The patient-centered medical home uses a team of caregivers to provide patient care in a coordinated fashion.

The need for primary care physicians has never been greater, yet fewer medical students are choosing to become primary care physicians. By 2030, it’s estimated that we’ll have 65,000 too few primary care physicians in the U.S. At the same time, the number of people over 65, many of whom have multiple health conditions, is expected to double, from 35 million today to 70 million in 2030.

The good news is that the patient-centered medical home, a new model of primary care, is expected to help address this shortage and improve patient access. In the video below, Joseph Frolkis, MD, PhD, Vice Chair of Primary Care in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), describes the patient-centered medical home, which uses a team of caregivers to provide care to patients in a coordinated fashion.

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