Could Loneliness be an Early Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 9, 2016

Loneliness may be an early sign of brain changes that lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.

In people with Alzheimer’s, the disease process—involving abnormal protein accumulation in the brain—begins 10 or 20 years before the onset of cognitive impairment.

In November, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) published a study that examined whether certain emotional or behavioral changes were associated with the accumulation of abnormal proteins, such as amyloid—a protein believed to be a precursor of Alzheimer’s.

“We thought loneliness could be an early signal of amyloid accumulation, because in epidemiologic studies lonely people have accelerated cognitive decline,” said study leader Dr. Nancy Donovan, a psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at BWH.   Read More »

One Incredible Gift Changes the Lives of Many Families

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 6, 2016

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Christine (left) became a living donor earlier this year to help people in kidney failure. Her kidney donation sparked a chain that resulted in dozens of transplants. Christine is pictured here with Henrietta (right), the final recipient in the chain.

In 2012, Christine Gentry, a high school teacher, was scrolling through Facebook and came across a post from an old friend. In the post, her friend, Julia, sadly announced that she was suffering from kidney failure and needed a kidney transplant. All of Julia’s family members had been tested, but none were suitable donors for her. Julia was sending a final plea.

Christine immediately contacted Julia and offered to help. After testing, Christine was told that she was not a direct match for Julia, but she was an ideal living kidney donor who may still be able to help Julia through a paired exchange donation. Read More »

Lung Center Sets Record for Lung Transplants

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 2, 2016

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From left: Hari Mallidi cuts a cake celebrating a lung transplant milestone at BWH with Lung Center colleagues Bruce Levy and Raphael Bueno.

Since the early 1990s, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been a leader in lung transplantation. This year, surgeons at BWH’s new Lung Center accomplished a major milestone by performing a record 51 lung transplants since October 1, 2015. This is the highest number of lung transplants ever performed in New England with the previous record being 36 in a comparable time period.

“The Lung Center was able to increase the number of lung transplants performed annually by increasing staffing to include four surgeons whose main focus is to perform transplants, and by making new technologies available patients,” said Dr. Raphael Bueno, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at BWH, and co-director of the Lung Center.      Read More »

Finding Happiness Despite Stage IV Lung Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 29, 2016

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Joann (center) with her daughters, Mei and Lia.

Today’s post is written by Joann Totten, a patient at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

As a non-smoker, I never imagined I would be diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, let alone at age 50. But that’s what happened on Aug. 5, 2015, just six weeks after I started experiencing a non-productive cough. The doctors felt certain it was bronchitis, but as a radiation therapist for more than 20 years, I advocated for myself and insisted on a chest x-ray, which came back a bit abnormal. After additional testing for tuberculosis and pneumonia, I began experiencing shortness of breath and had another chest x-ray and CT scan. When I saw the scan, which was hard to believe was mine; I knew immediately I had cancer. A few days later, a biopsy confirmed my diagnosis: non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV.

Although it’s been more than a year, it’s still so hard to believe I have lung cancer. I never smoked, I exercise, and I eat very healthy; I thought I took pretty good care of myself. But cancer doesn’t discriminate; all you need are lungs to be diagnosed with this disease. Read More »

Making a New Robotic Prosthesis a Reality

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 23, 2016

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Two years ago, Jim Ewing fell nearly 50 feet from a cliff while rock climbing. The injuries he sustained left him with severe damage to the bones and nerves in his left leg.

This past July, Jim decided to take part in a first-of-its-kind surgical amputation procedure with Dr. Matthew Carty, director of the Lower Extremity Transplant Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, who created a robotic prosthetic, and funding from the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation, Jim is set to embark on a new journey that could enable his brain to interact with a specially made prosthetic.

“In its uninjured state, the human body is a dynamic machine, comprised of many moving parts that function in balance and enable us to do amazing things, like running and dancing, through the coordinated interaction of our brain and our muscles,” Dr. Carty explained in a press conference. “Traditional amputations disrupt this dynamic state. As a result, lower limb amputees lose the ability to finely control the muscles in their residual legs and, more importantly, lose the ability to perceive where their limb is in space without looking at it.” Read More »

Hip-Spine Syndrome: It’s Complicated (and Often Overlooked)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 18, 2016

A patient with hip arthritis may experience hip or groin pain as well as trouble walking, while a patient with lumbar spinal stenosis may have pain down their leg, or neurologic symptoms such as numbness, tingling or weakness.

3d rendered illustration of a man having backache

Hip-spine syndrome is a condition where both hip and spine problems are occurring in tandem.

“Hip-spine syndrome is a distinct syndrome where both hip and spinal problems are occurring together,” said James D. Kang, MD, Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

And yet, because hip and spine disorders have overlapping presentations and symptoms, it can often be challenging for physicians to determine if a patient’s symptoms originate from the hip, spine or both. This can delay diagnosis and treatment, and many patients with hip-spine syndrome have seen several physicians and therapists, or may have undergone various procedures that did not relieve their pain. Read More »

Memory Changes Tied to Menopause

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 14, 2016

Many women experience changes in memory as they get older, and according to a study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers, these changes are impacted by their menopausal status and not simply chronological age.

New research shows transition to menopause causes changes in memory circuitry.

New research shows transition to menopause causes changes in memory circuitry.

The study’s investigators found that women participating in the study who had lower levels of the sex hormone, estradiol – known to decline during the menopausal transition – performed more poorly on a verbal memory task than those who had higher levels regardless of age. Participants with lower estradiol levels also showed more changes in the brain circuitry that controls memory.

“Our findings underscore the incredible variability of the brain as we age and the critical importance and complexity of the impact of sex on aging, including the unique role of sex steroid hormones in memory function,” said senior author Jill Goldstein, PhD, director of Research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at BWH. “Maintaining intact memory function with age is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, and applying a sex-dependent lens to the study of memory circuitry aging will help identify early antecedents of future memory decline and risk for Alzheimer’s disease.” Read More »

Breast Reconstruction – New Surgical Approaches

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 11, 2016

Innovative flap procedures offer breast reconstruction options to patients who are not candidates for implant-based breast reconstruction.

Contributor: Dr. Matthew Carty is Co-Director of the Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. His clinical interests include advanced reconstructive and cosmetic procedures of the body and face.

Many women who have lost a breast to cancer cannot undergo common breast reconstruction procedures, because they have had abdominal surgery, or lack sufficient donor tissue in their abdomen.

However, with advances in surgical reconstruction, many have new options. “We can now use the patient’s own tissue to rebuild the breast,” says Dr. Matthew Carty.

The innovative reconstructive options involve transferring tissue, known as flaps, from one part of the body to the chest without compromising muscle functioning.

“After the surgical procedure, patients can still run, ride bikes, swim, do ballet, yoga, all the general activities that people like to do,” says Dr. Carty. Read More »

Managing Oral Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 8, 2016

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Cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy may cause mouth sores and dry mouth, while some newer targeted therapies may lead to taste changes and oral sensitivity.

Oral problems such as mouth sores, dry mouth, jaw pain, and sensitive gums are a common complaint for cancer patients, because the very treatments that target fast-growing cancer cells can also affect healthy cells in the mouth. Treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy may cause mouth sores and dry mouth, while some newer targeted therapies may lead to taste changes and oral sensitivity. Patients with head and neck cancers are particularly likely to experience oral problems, because treatments often focus on areas near the mouth and jaw.

Here are some tips for dealing with common oral side effects of cancer treatment: Read More »

NICU Redesigned with Families in Mind

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 4, 2016

As families step off the elevator and enter the newly redesigned Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), they walk through a welcoming open space with natural light and views of the outdoors.

Comforting and family-centered Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH)

Comforting and family-centered Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH)

Creating a comforting and family-centered environment is important in a unit that cares for premature infants, says Dr. Terri Gorman, a neonatologist and Co-Medical Director of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, which cares for approximately 3,000 premature and sick infants and their families each year.

“Having a premature baby that needs special medical care can be stressful, and many of the parents who enter the NICU are first-time parents,” says Dr. Gorman, which is one of the reasons why the new facility offers a more open and welcoming environment for families and their babies.

After greeting a friendly unit coordinator at the front desk, families can walk from their baby’s room to the family lounge area or to the outdoor patio. With no restrictions on visitation, family members can also sleepover on the pull-out sofa in their infant’s room, and mothers can breastfeed in privacy and store milk in their room’s private refrigerator. Families can even attend daily rounds with the medical staff, if they want. Read More »