Tag Archives: medicine

Plastic surgery finally starts making sense

It’s a conundrum I’ve pondered many times, most recently in Volume 3 of my series entitled Musings On Science, The Human Body, And the Failures Contained Therein Which I Have Seen At The Shopping Mall:

Since half of cosmetic surgery is taking stuff out of people, and the other half is putting stuff into people, shouldn’t we just put the stuff we take out of some parts into other parts?

According to the New York Times, the medical community is finally thinking along those same lines:

THE latest kind of recycling has nothing to do with soda bottles. It entails liposuctioning fat from, say, thighs or buttocks and injecting it into breasts to augment them. After being condemned in the early ’90s, this procedure is generating newfound excitement among the handful of doctors nationwide who offer it and patients keen to enlarge their breasts without resorting to implants.

The practice was condemned because doctors worried that injecting fat into peoples’ boobies would hamper mammograms. But since our communist death panel librul mooozlim president says women shouldn’t get those anymore, it’s time to reconsider. Or something:

But this year, the plastic surgery society reversed its former position. A report from its task force reviewed the limited research on fat grafting to the breast and concluded that it “can be considered a safe method of augmentation.” On the issue of mammography, the report said fat grafting “could potentially interfere with breast cancer detection; however no evidence was found that strongly suggests this interference.” Thus, the task force’s statement turned a red stoplight into a yellow one, signaling to plastic surgeons: Proceed with caution.

I know there are a lot of people out there who look down on those who opt for cosmetic procedures, and I think that’s pretty sad. On the other hand, this new “relocation” technique could make it a lot more difficult to tell who has been enhanced and who hasn’t. I think you should be required to disclose whether you’ve had this particular procedure done. That way your office mates can make up funny nicknames for you, like “Ol’ Butt Tits” and “Belly Boobs.” Look, I never said your office mates were funny. Jeez, get a new job already.

Your Own Fat, Relocated [NYT]

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threewolfmoonI don’t know about you guys, but I’m breathing a bit easier today now that researchers have determined that a full moon does not affect my chances of surviving open-heart surgery:

A new study, which will be published in the October issue of the journal Anesthesiology, shows the moon’s phase has no effect on the outcome of a heart-related surgery. The statistical sigh of relief is the result of an investigation into surgical outcomes of more than 18,000 patients who underwent so-called elective coronary artery bypass graft surgery, in which blood flow is rerouted through a new artery or vein. The operations were performed at the Cleveland Clinic between 1993 and 2006.

Allen Bashour and Daniel Sessler, of the Cleveland Clinic, and their colleagues specifically looked at risk of death, heart attacks immediately following surgery, and infections, among other factors.

“The moon phase has been somewhat of an urban legend,” Bashour told LiveScience. “There’s no science that I know of to justify it. So really we didn’t expect that would be an influence.” But in science, one has to look, not assume, and so they did.

Despite the researchers’ findings, there are still several unexplained links between the natural world and our physical well-being. Such as how the aurora borealis gives many people liver cancer. And how Father Scott gets an erection every time he sees a barn owl. Such are the mysteries of modern medicine.

Full Moon Does Not Affect Surgery Outcomes [Live Science]

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Your appendix may actually do something

appendixThe decorous and genteel Mrs. Pax Arcana spent some quality time at Massachusetts General Hospital a few years ago on account of a tummy ache that turned out to be appendicitis. To correct the issue, doctors called in a rag-tag team of deep sea drillers to bore holes in her abdomen and extract the offending organ. They were then sent into outer space to blow up an asteroid.

For years we’ve been taught that the appendix was a vestigial organ left over from cavemen times, but recent research suggests otherwise. According to LiveScience, the appendix is actually a useful storage shed for bacteria. Because sometimes we need that. Like after a bad bout of the mud butt:

“Everybody likely knows at least one person who had to get their appendix taken out — slightly more than 1 in 20 people do — and they see there are no ill effects, and this suggests that you don’t need it,” Parker said.

However, Parker and his colleagues recently suggested that the appendix still served as a vital safehouse where good bacteria could lie in wait until they were needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea. Past studies had also found the appendix can help make, direct and train white blood cells.

Other research has shown that the appendix has survived multiple stages of evolution in many different animals, which suggests that it is in fact a useful piece of internal architecture. Scientists also say that appendicitis is actually the result of the industrial revolution, because modern sanitation means less work for our good bacteria, which then gets bored and turns against the appendix.

I think this research is great. It’s high time we stopped looking down our noses at supposed “vestigial” body parts like the appendix and my foot thumbs. You think your kidneys are so great? Let’s see you hang upside down from a tree branch with them, tough guy.

The Appendix: Useful and in Fact Promising [LiveScience]

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Drug goats are the next big thing

Pax Arcana


Goats are all the rage these days. Not only are we finally discovering that goats are healthy and delicious, but now it appears they might also save your life.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new anti-clotting drug (ATryn) made from goats that “secrete a special therapeutic protein” into their milk. The drug won’t be on the shelf anytime soon because have you ever seen a bunch of secreting goats on a drug store shelf? Sure, it’s hilarious, but it’s also dangerous. Someone could slip and fall.

Anyway, ATryn could be important because it could lead to even awesomer animal drugs:

“It’s really a milestone event,” said Eric Overstrom, chairman of biology and biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who collaborated with GTC on some of its early research using goats. “This adds to the toolbox for the pharmaceutical industry.”

Though ATryn is likely to have limited marketing potential because it would serve a relatively small pool of patients, the drug’s approval could clear the way to produce many more drugs with genetically modified animals, an approach nicknamed “pharming.”

Of course the milestone wasn’t cheered by everyone. The head of the nonprofit Center for Food Safety — which is apparently a thing — says when it comes to drug animals, oooogedy boooooogedy whaaaaahaaaaaaa beeeafrraaaaaaaaiiiiiiddd!!!!

“The creation of GE animals is a very slippery slope,” Jaydee Hanson, the center’s policy analyst on cloning and genetics, said in a statement. “All it takes is one mating between an escaped specimen and a natural animal to set off a chain of events that could lead to contamination or extinction.”

OK, I guess he has a point. On CSI: Miami this week they had a whole show about something called a “drug mule,” which is apparently a mule that looks like a Venezuelan teenager and has heroin up its ass. Too many of those and we’re all dead.

Fresh from the farm, a biotech ‘milestone’ [Boston.com]

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And you thought foot-and-mouth was bad

Pax Arcana

Our front-line Internet spy Jaelynne emailed me a story this morning that is absolutely kick-you-in-the-brain strange.

Doctors in Colorado operated on a 3-day old newborn after spotting a small tumor on the baby’s brain. What they found was… well, let’s let go straight to the story:

Grabb said that while removing the growth, he discovered it contained a nearly perfect foot and the formation of another foot, a hand and a thigh.

“It looked like the breach delivery of a baby, coming out of the brain,” Grabb said. “To find a perfectly formed structure (like this) is extremely unique, unusual, borderline unheard of.”

Here is an artist’s rendering of the scene:


Now, we know from reading Dr. French Fry that the human body is capable of creating some jacked-up shit, but this is taking things one step too far.

I bet the doctor regrets dragging his feet on taking pictures of the tumor to show incredulous colleagues. Honestly, without proof he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. I think something is afoot with all of this.

Tumor in Colorado newborn’s brain contained foot [AP]

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Paging Dr. Douchebag… Dr. Douchebag to the OR please

Pax Arcana

drdouchebag1In my long and storied career as a rakishly handsome doctor, I’ve been called a lot of things.

I’ve been called cocky. I’ve been called demanding. I’ve been called a perfectionist.

But now those imbeciles at the New York Times are calling me something else — a murderer. According to them, patients are dying because of “arrogant, abusive and disruptive” doctors:

A survey of health care workers at 102 nonprofit hospitals from 2004 to 2007 found that 67 percent of respondents said they thought there was a link between disruptive behavior and medical mistakes, and 18 percent said they knew of a mistake that occurred because of an obnoxious doctor. (The author was Dr. Alan Rosenstein, medical director for the West Coast region of VHA Inc., an alliance of nonprofit hospitals.)

Another survey by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit organization, found that 40 percent of hospital staff members reported having been so intimidated by a doctor that they did not share their concerns about orders for medication that appeared to be incorrect. As a result, 7 percent said they contributed to a medication error.

The story recounts one incident in which a baby died after a resident noticed a possible problem with a fetal monitoring strip, but failed to contact the attending physician — who was known for “ridiculing” the residents. Several nurses have reported being ignored or abused by doctors for alerting them to possible problems or misspeaking in the operating room.

I guess I see their point. From now on, I’m going to bring my residents marshmallows and soda-pop everyday, and instead of doing our rounds we’ll sing campfire songs and talk about our feelings. Then when one of our patients dies we’ll go down to the pet store and look at the puppies to cheer ourselves up. YOU DON’T SEEM TO GET IT YOU LITTLE SHITS, THIS IS A HOSPITAL NOT A DAYCARE CENTER AND I AM DR. DOUCHEBAG AND I GET WHAT I WANT.

Now if you don’t mind, I have a very important meeting with my Porsche dealership. Please sew this patient back up, and try your best not to leave any gauze in there this time, mmmkay?

Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive — and a Doctor [NYT]

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Modern medicine will cure your grandfather of everything

Pax Arcana

doctor_manGreat news from the medical front today, as the FDA has recommended a new treatment for a disease that affects 5 out of 9 older sitcom characters and everyone named “Pappy.”

About 5 million people in the U.S. suffer from gout, a form of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood. Uloric, as the new drug is called, works by reducing levels of uric acid.

In healthy people, uric acid is dissolved in the blood and excreted from the body in urine. But high levels lead to the formation of needle-like crystals that become deposited in the joints, causing intense pain and swelling. Many patients experience their first attack of gout in the big toe. The disease can progress, causing deformities.

The new drug has shown some promise in clinical trials, and without the risk of heart side effects that doctors had feared. If the new drug performs as hoped in the open market, researchers hope to tackle other pressing diseases like consumption, the barmaid’s itch, milk leg, dropsy, scrumpox, horrors, mortification and the vapors.

FDA advisers recommend approval of new gout drug [Boston.com]

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Pax Arcana

There is probably no surer sign of traumatic brain injury than voluntarily submitting to the will of the evil axis of zombies and scientists — yet that’s exactly what happened when 12 of the world’s top athletes willfully donated their brains to Boston University.

We’ve already chronicled the nefarious intentions of the world’s scientists, who seek to destroy humankind either by sucking us through manmade black holes or letting loose radioactive fungi into our bowls of cream of mushroom soup. The threat of zombies should be self-evident by now.

But all this information wasn’t enough to stop former Patriots player Ted Johnson, and others, from falling prey to smooth-talking charms of the scientific community. The athletes have vowed to donate their brains to help researchers study the long-term effects of concussions. The issue has come to the forefront in recent years, in part due to the well-publicized depression — and in the case of former Dolphins player John Grimsley, suicide — of some former NFL players:

Of the six former N.F.L. players’ brains that have been examined in this manner, Grimsley’s was the fifth to be found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, joining the former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Waters and the former Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Webster, Terry Long and Justin Strzelczyk. (The condition can be confirmed only by post-mortem tissue analysis; X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging tests cannot yet detect it.) Because each player died relatively young, from 36 to 50, they provided an opportunity to examine brain abnormalities that are exceedingly rare in someone of that age without a history of repetitive brain injury.

This is all very sad. Especially since the scientists allowed the zombies to draft the agreement paperwork stipulating that the brains be donated not “at the time of death of the party of the first part,” as originally agreed, but instead “BRRAAAAAAAAINNS NNNOOWWWWW .”

12 Athletes Leaving Brains to Concussion Study [NYT]

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Shawne Merriman is a freaking genius

Pax Arcana

Shawne Merriman is famous for two things:

1) Being really good at football


2) Using steroids to get really good at football

I humbly submit that we add a third thing to this list:

Shawne Merriman is a freaking genius who is smarter than four doctors combined.

You might think Merriman must have been wearing his bad idea jeans when he told the Chargers he would play this season against the advice of four (FOUR!!) separate doctors who suggested he have career-saving surgery now and come back for the 2009 season. But Merriman, whose IQ far exceeds that of the typical bunched up piece of paper, wisely reckoned that at age 24, he is too old to not risk a multi-million dollar career on the 2008 season:

“I know what’s at stake,” Merriman said Wednesday. “But I had a goal with the team before the season started, and I’m sticking to it.”

When asked how sure he was about playing, Merriman replied, “100 percent.”

It is precisely this kind of insight that has served Merriman so well in the past. Like that time he promised to blast Tom Brady in the mouth before getting humiliated in the AFC Championship Game (hat tip: Fallen Angel). Or that time he invented the “Lights Out Dance.”

The good news is that football is not dangerous in any way:

Merriman to play despite 2 torn ligaments [Fox Sports]

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The poor are even better at dying than they used to be

Pax Arcana

While overall life expectancy has risen since the 1960s, the Harvard School of Public Health says poor people are even better at dying than they were back when Pappy would set his own broken leg with an ironing board and a rusty bicycle chain:

“There has always been a view in U.S. health policy that inequalities are more tolerable as long as everyone’s health is improving. There is now evidence that there are large parts of the population in the United States whose health has been getting worse for about two decades,” said Majid Ezzati, associate professor of international health at HSPH and lead author of the study.

Fine, but where are these poor people exactly? My guess is they’re concentrated in suburban New Jersey and Massachusetts, with a strong contingent in the Bay Area.

Damn. Guess I was wrong:

The majority of the counties that had the worst downward swings in life expectancy were in the South, along the Mississippi River, and in Appalachia, extending into the southern portion of the Midwest and into Texas.

Public health outreach programs in areas like Appalachia are notoriously difficult to maintain over time, because local coordinators are often “ate.”

Life expectancy worsening or stagnating [Harvard Gazette]

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