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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Inflammatory Bowel Disease – A New Model of Care

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 28, 2015

Dr. Joshua Korzenik

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which affects about 1.6 to 1.8 million Americans, is a group of chronic conditions that impacts the colon and small intestine. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both conditions affect the large intestine, but Crohn’s also can affect the entire digestive tract.

IBD is a lifelong condition that can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, pain, and fatigue. There are, however, treatments that can help patients manage these symptoms and make life more comfortable.

In the following video, Dr. Joshua Korzenik, Director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Crohn’s and Colitis Center, discusses the major causes of IBD, innovative treatment approaches, and what’s being done to improve IBD care.

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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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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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