Food Allergy – Advancing Care and Knowledge

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 30, 2014

Jessica R. Savage, MD, MHS

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and throughout the world continue their quest to explain the dramatic rise in the number of people diagnosed with food allergy over the past 20 years. Although certain risks for developing food allergy have been identified, such as genetics and environmental factors, the root cause or causes behind this dangerous condition’s upsurge have yet to be clearly defined.

There have been, however, advances in diagnosis, prevention, and treatment, including promising research findings. Among this research are the successful testing of an oral immunotherapy that gradually builds a patient’s tolerance of an allergenic food and increasing evidence that exposure to antimicrobial chemicals increases a child’s risk of developing allergies.

In the video below, the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology, and Allergy’s Dr. Jessica Savage examines theories about why food allergies have become so prevalent in our society and what is being done today to help individual patients with this increasingly common immunological condition.

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Unhealthy Impact of Differences in Generic Pill Appearances

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 26, 2014

Generic versions of the same prescription drug may look significantly different in both shape and size.

All generic drugs are approved by the FDA as being interchangeable with each other, and studies show that they have similar clinical effects. However, depending on the manufacturer, generic versions of the same prescription drug may look significantly different in both shape and size. Not surprisingly, these inconsistencies can cause problems for consumers.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers recently studied the activity of a large group of patients who recently suffered heart attacks and found that variations in the appearance of generic drugs were associated with a greater risk of patients stopping their essential post-heart attack medications.

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Keys to Preventing Lyme Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 6, 2014

Interactive training, including games, appeared to help children improve their confidence and ability to prevent Lyme disease.

It is often said that “knowledge is power.” Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) rheumatologist Dr. Nancy Shadick, however, has discovered that knowledge alone is not enough when it comes to effectively preventing Lyme disease,a tick-borne infection that can cause neurological and joint problems.

Through her research, Dr. Shadick has found that increasing knowledge about Lyme disease is a good start, but that we also need to proactively increase people’s motivations and readiness in order to change their behaviors. That’s why her team developed interactive programs to not only increase people’s knowledge about the disease, but also heighten the sense of their susceptibility and the potential consequences of the disease, promote the perception that taking preventive measures will provide worthwhile benefits, and, most importantly, increase people’s confidence that they can do something on their own to prevent it (self-efficacy).

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Cord Blood: Life Sustaining, Life Saving

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 30, 2014

Cord blood collection is a safe procedure for both mother and child.

Did you know that babies are born with a precious, potentially life-saving resource?

By donating your baby’s umbilical cord blood, the same blood that helped sustain your child while in the womb, you are providing something that could save the life of a patient with leukemia, lymphoma, or another type of life-threatening genetic disease. This is because cord blood has an abundance of blood-forming stem cells. These cells can be collected, preserved, and later transplanted to an adult or pediatric patient to help treat their disease. Building a bank of this resource is critical, as 70 percent of patients who need these cells don’t have a family member who is a matching donor.

It’s important to emphasize that cord blood collection is a free, medically safe procedure for both the mother and child, and the procedure doesn’t change the birthing process. The blood is collected from the cord after the baby is born, and no blood is taken from the baby. If the cord blood isn’t collected, this valuable resource is thrown away.

Mothers with a singleton pregnancy (one child) and who have no history of cancer or tuberculosis are eligible to donate their baby’s cord blood through the BWH Cord Blood Donation Program. Talk to your doctor, midwife, or nurse if you’re interested in donating. If you have further questions, please e-mail us at

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Double Arm Transplant Candidate Hoping for Independence

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 16, 2014

Will Lautzenheiser has been approved as a candidate for a bilateral (double) arm transplant.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) announced at a recent press conference that Will Lautzenheiser, 39, a former professor of film production and screenwriting at Boston University and Montana State University, has been approved as a candidate for a bilateral (double) arm transplant.

Will became a quadruple amputee in 2011, when doctors in Montana removed his limbs due to necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), a life-threatening Group A streptococcal infection. Since that time, Will has struggled to manage with prosthetic (artificial) limbs.

“After losing my limbs, I haven’t been able to do anything spontaneously,” said Will. “It might take me 20 minutes to get dressed using prostheses.” He added that often “other people have to be my hands.”

A successful arm transplant, however, has the potential to significantly restore a patient’s self-reliance. “What we are hoping to provide is independence, something that no prosthesis really can achieve at the present time,” explained Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Director of the BWH Plastic Surgery Transplantation Program.

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Eating after Bariatric Surgery

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 24, 2014

After bariatric surgery, you’ll be introduced to a diet that features gradual changes in food textures.

You’ll have to start eating differently after having weight loss surgery, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up all your favorite foods. Let’s start by talking about how things will be different.

Your stomach acts as a holding tank for food and beverages and as a strong muscle that grinds and churns your food, helping with digestion. Depending on the procedure, weight loss surgery either removes a large portion of your stomach or significantly restricts access to your stomach. And, as you can imagine, reducing the capacity of your stomach makes it much harder for it to do its job.

To help your stomach adapt to this increased workload, you’ll be introduced to a staged diet that features gradual changes in food textures. You’ll drink protein shakes for two weeks and then slowly advance to soft foods for four weeks. With time, you should be able to tolerate a variety of textures, as long as you eat slowly and chew carefully. For more information on the post-operative (and pre-operative) diet, see the Nutrition Resources section of our Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery site.

Surgery + You = Weight Loss

Weight loss surgery alone doesn’t ensure that you’ll lose weight and keep it off. You also will need to change the way you eat for the rest of your life in order to be successful. This means reducing your calorie intake by eating small portions and avoiding calorie-packed foods and beverages. Fortunately, your modified stomach is a built-in portion control tool, so all you have to do is put healthy foods on your plate and stop when your stomach is full.

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Improving Joint Replacement – From Consultation to Recovery

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 4, 2014

BWH's evidence-based knee replacement process is based on research by the Care Improvement Team, led by orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Wright (center).

As a concerned friend or relative of a patient who recently had a joint replaced, you might be tempted to ask: “How was your surgery?” But research findings from our Department of Orthopedic Surgery suggest that you should be just as concerned about how they were treated before and after surgery.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) now uses a standardized approach to total knee replacement that guides how patients should be treated from the time they arrive at the hospital for a consultation to the care they receive after being discharged. This new evidence-based approach is based on the work of the Care Improvement Team, led by orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Wright. After researching prospective changes to conventional knee replacement practices, the team tested selected changes and evaluated their effects. Changes found to have had a significant impact were incorporated into a new knee replacement process, which is now the standard protocol for all knee replacement surgeries at BWH.

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Health Screenings – To-Do List for Men

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 3, 2014

Every man should have their blood pressure checked regularly. This can be done at the doctor’s office or at home.

Detecting symptoms of certain health conditions early, when they’re more easily treatable, is a critical factor in helping men stay healthy. That’s why getting all your doctor-recommended health care screenings in a timely fashion is the kind of to-do list that no man should ignore.

Below is information about some of these important health screenings for men, including the appropriate timing for each.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have ever smoked tobacco should get screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. An imaging test, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study, can help determine the presence, size, and extent of an aortic aneurysm. The major risk of this aortic bulging is a rupture resulting in severe or fatal internal bleeding.

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Why Should You See a Physiatrist?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 27, 2014

Physiatrist Zacharia Isaac, MD, specializes in conservative spine care.

Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know what a physiatrist does. In the context of the medical world, physiatry is a relatively new discipline. Recognition of the practice was heightened during World War II, when physiatrists were called upon to supervise the rehabilitation of U.S. soldiers returning home with severe musculoskeletal disabilities. Soon afterward, in 1947, physiatry was formally approved as a medical specialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Physiatrists (also known as physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians) specialize in non-surgical care for conditions – particularly neuromuscular (nerve, muscle, and bone) disorders – that cause pain and impair normal, everyday functions. Along with their standard medical training, many physiatrists also pursue additional training in one or more of the following subspecialties: musculoskeletal rehabilitation, pediatrics, spinal cord injury, sports medicine, traumatic brain injury, and pain medicine. Brigham and Women’s Hospital physiatrists focus on caring for pain related to spine and sports conditions.

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The Latest about Mammography: Benefits, Risks, and Choices

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 8, 2014

Opinions continue to vary about when a woman should start getting a mammogram and how frequently thereafter.

A team of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers recently examined 50 years of international breast cancer screening research data to assess the benefits and risks of mammography. Their determination: the benefits of mammography are modest, and the harms are significant, making it very important that women make informed decisions about screening.

“There are benefits to mammography in decreasing the likelihood that a woman will die of breast cancer,” says report co-author Dr. Nancy Keating, a physician in the BWH Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care and an associate professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. “But those benefits are not enormous.”

Those benefits also vary according to age, as well as other risk factors, such as family history. The report authors estimate that for every 10,000 women aged 40-49 who get annual mammograms for the next 10 years, approximately 190 of those women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Of those 190, 5 will avoid death because of getting a regular mammogram, 25 will die regardless of their regular screening, and the majority (160) will survive, also regardless of regular screening. As a woman gets older, however, the benefit of routine mammography steadily increases, accounting for:

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