Testosterone Therapy’s Effect on the Heart and Quality of Life

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


Taking testosterone may not improve men’s sexual function or quality of life.

Recent Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research has found that testosterone use among men doesn’t appear to increase their risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition that can lead to severe cardiovascular diseases. The same study, however, also found that these same men failed to realize the quality of life benefits that are often the primary goals of testosterone therapy.

Testosterone, a hormone primarily secreted by the testicles, plays a key role not only in male reproductive tissues, but also in muscle growth, bone mass, and metabolism. As men get older, their testosterone levels naturally decline – an average of one percent a year after age 40. In an attempt to counter this natural decline, an increasing number of men over the past decade have turned to testosterone therapy.

Although previous studies aimed at examining rates of adverse cardiovascular events in men taking testosterone have produced conflicting results, concerns remain that testosterone therapy might increase a person’s risk of a heart attack or stroke. BWH investigators developed the Testosterone’s Effects on Atherosclerosis Progression in Aging Men (TEAAM) trial to explore whether there is link between testosterone use and atherosclerosis, a critical risk factor for heart attack and stroke. The three-year study found that administering testosterone to older men (over 60) with low to low normal testosterone levels had no effect on the progression of hardening of the arteries, but also did not significantly improve sexual function or health-related quality of life.

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New Options for Natural Breast Reconstruction

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 13, 2015


BWH plastic surgeons are offering new breast reconstruction options that use a patient’s own thigh tissue.

Plastic surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are now offering women several new options for natural breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.

These new autologous (own tissue) procedures – PAP (profunda artery perforator), TUG (transverse upper gracilis), and DUG (diagonal upper gracilis) flap reconstruction – are typically reserved for patients who do not have enough tissue in their abdomen for reconstruction or who have already had abdominal surgery. Each option involves taking a complete flap of tissue – including skin, fat, and its accompanying blood supply – from the patient’s own leg and transferring it to the chest to create a new breast.

Women are increasingly turning to these and other types of autologous reconstruction as alternatives to reconstruction with artificial implants. Chief among the reasons for this trend is that flap procedures give women the opportunity to have a reconstructed breast with a natural look and feel that lasts. Because they’re biologic, soft tissue reconstructions evolve with the patient. As a woman loses weight, gains weight, or ages, the reconstructed breast tends to respond in proportion to the rest of the body.

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New Biodegradable Gel Helps Heal Wounds

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 15, 2015

A hydrogel developed by the BWH Biomedical Engineering Division team is strong, flexible, and biocompatible.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) bioengineers have a developed a unique hydrogel whose properties could provide significant benefits in wound healing. The BWH Biomedical Engineering Division team, led by biomedical engineer Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, MASc, and chemical engineer Nasim Annabi, PhD, reported their findings in the July 1, 2015, online edition of Advanced Functional Materials.

“Hydrogels are widely used in biomedicine, but currently available materials have limitations,” says Khademhosseini, study senior author and Director of the BWH Biomaterials Innovation Research Center. “Some synthetic gels degrade into toxic chemicals over time, and some natural gels are not strong enough to withstand the flow of arterial blood through them.”

Preclinical testing by the BWH Biomedical Engineering Division researchers, however, shows that their hydrogel is strong, flexible, and biocompatible (harmless to living tissue).

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Hybrid Operating Room – Not Your Typical Delivery Room

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

Chelsea Phaneuf and her family.

It’s not every day that a baby is born in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) cardiovascular hybrid operating room (OR), but that’s where a multidisciplinary cardiovascular and obstetrics team was at the ready as 29-year-old Chelsea Phaneuf delivered her daughter, Aria, this spring. Chelsea had been admitted to the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center with a failing heart valve about a month before Aria’s arrival.

At the age of 23, an echocardiogram showed that Chelsea’s bicuspid valve had suddenly deteriorated and needed to be replaced. At such a young age, Chelsea was concerned about how the surgery would impact planning for a future family. The daily blood-thinning medication required for patients who undergo a valve replacement with a mechanical device is a risk to a developing fetus. Chelsea, therefore, opted for a biological valve, even though they don’t last as long as a mechanical valve.

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Benefits of Breastfeeding

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 29, 2015

Breastfeeding provides benefits to babies and their mothers.

August is National Breastfeeding Month, a good time to talk about the significant short- and long-term benefits that breastfeeding provides to babies and their mothers. This includes lower risk of ear infections, pneumonia, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome for babies and lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancers for mothers.

In 1991, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund launched the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative to establish practices that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. Brigham and Women’s Hospital is participating in this global effort. Below is an overview of the baby-friendly practices that we follow and promote at the Brigham and Women’s Center for Women and Newborns to help initiate and extend the duration of breastfeeding.

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VirScan Reveals Viral History from a Single Drop of Blood

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 14, 2015

A patient's viral history can be found in a single drop of blood.

Researchers have developed a test that uses a single drop of blood to simultaneously determine which of more than 1,000 different viruses currently infects or previously infected a person.

Using the new method, known as VirScan, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Harvard Medical School detected an average of 10 viral species per person during their study. The findings, published in Science (June 5, 2015), shed light on the relationship between the vast array of viruses that can infect humans (the human virome) and a person’s immunity. This insight, in turn, has significant implications for our understanding of immunology and patient care.

The research team found the sensitivity and precision of VirScan to be very similar to that of today’s standard blood tests. However, today’s standard blood tests can detect only one pathogen at a time and have not been developed to detect all viruses.

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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.

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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.

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Walking Away from Obesity

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 29, 2015

Tim Dineen, before gastric bypass surgery

Everyone is invited to participate in this year’s Walk from Obesity, which starts and finishes at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital on June 13, 2015. Join patients, medical staff, and others in helping to make a difference in the lives of those touched by obesity by either walking or cheering on the walkers. Funds raised through the event will be used to support obesity-related research, education, and awareness programs promoted by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Foundation.

One patient who plans to be there is Tim Dineen, 59, of Somerville, MA, who exemplifies what a committed patient can do once they find the right help.

Like many, his weight struggles began when he was young and continued into adulthood. Despite being active, he continued to be overweight because of excessive eating. He tried a variety of strategies to lose weight, but none led to long-term success.

Tim thought about weight loss surgery, but initially didn’t pursue that option because of his concern about the risks of open surgery. However, when he learned that gastric bypass surgery had become a less-invasive procedure, he came to Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) to see whether he would be an appropriate candidate for this new approach.

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Nanomedicine May Help to Prevent Heart Attacks

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

The nanoparticle's special surface is designed to stick to fatty deposits.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Columbia University researchers have developed a microscopic medicine that could be used to help prevent heart attacks caused by atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a buildup of plaque (mainly cholesterol deposits) within the arteries. This thickening of the artery walls decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to vital body organs and extremities, which can lead to severe cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease (CHD), carotid artery disease, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries continues to be the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S., and about one half of all strokes in this country are caused by atherosclerosis.

Through preclinical testing, the BWH and Columbia University researchers aimed to demonstrate that medical treatment of atherosclerosis can be significantly improved by significantly improving the precision of treatment. They designed nanometer-sized, biodegradable “drones” that are programmed to travel to the exact area of the artery where treatment is required, and, once there, deliver a precise dose of a special anti-inflammatory medication that promotes healing. The size of the nanomedicine particles – 1,000 times smaller than the tip of a single human-hair strand – helps them to maneuver to the inside of the plaque. The particles’ special surface, designed to stick to fatty deposits, helps to keep them there.

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