How Clean (or Dirty) Is Your Hospital?

Have you ever seen a picture or video of a medical facility in some third-world country and thought, “How dirty that looks; I’m so glad I live in America where the hospitals are clean!”? While sanitation does remain one of the biggest concerns in healthcare facilities worldwide, we tend to believe our own hospitals are the exception to the rule. But are they, really? According to the CDC, over 721,000 patients were reported to have gotten serious infections while being treated in health facilities in 2011. Many of these infections could have been prevented by cleaner conditions within the facility…

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Risks and Dangers of Medical Test “False Negatives”

We’ve talked about false positives on medical tests and how they can prompt patients to receive treatments or procedures they don’t really need. However, perhaps even more dangerous is the “false negative”—the test that says you don’t have a disease or condition you actually have. We most often hear about false negatives in the context of home pregnancy tests, which are more prone to giving false negatives than false positives. However, when it comes to screening for more serious conditions like HIV or cancer, a false negative can have dire repercussions. Why Does It Happen? False negatives happen for many…

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Medical Implant Devices and the FDA: User Beware? (part 1)

When the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approves a medical device designed to improve your health, can you assume the device is safe? Not so fast, according to some critics. Modern medicine relies more and more on implantable medical devices to help certain patients—from artificial hips and knees to coronary stents and pacemakers, from cataract lenses to breast implants. Yet remarkably, as author/reporter Jeanne Lenzer points out in a recent interview, less than 1 percent of FDA-approved medical devices even undergo clinical trials. (By comparison, drugs must go through at least two trials prior to approval.) Even devices considered…

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Risks and Dangers of Medical Test “False Positives”

A woman goes in to see her doctor for a routine Pap smear. To the woman’s dismay, the test comes back positive for cervical cancer. The doctor recommends an immediate hysterectomy—a devastating recommendation considering the woman, in her prime childbearing years, was trying with her husband to conceive her first child. Preferring life to childbirth, she agrees to the hysterectomy. Except there was no cancer. After the hysterectomy, the doctors discover the woman’s Pap smear had yielded a “false positive,” identifying an illness that wasn’t really present. Sadly, this scenario happens more often than you might think. Medical tests of…

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February is American Heart Month. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Many of us exchange heart-shaped items around this time in honor of Valentine’s Day, but did you know that February is officially American Heart Month? According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases take approximately 2300 American lives each day. The government has designated this month for increased awareness of the risks of heart attack, stroke and related heart diseases. Let’s take this opportunity to review the warning signs of possible heart attack or stroke. Heart Attack Warning Signs Heart attacks often don’t happen with a sudden blast of pain and a collapse like we see in the movies. Many…

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