Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

MRI Shows Mind Over Matter May Really Diminish Pain

MRI Shows Mind Over Matter May Really Diminish Pain

From the April 8 Medical News Today item

Focus, zen, meditate and your pain may go away or diminish. A new MRI brain image study shows that just after a short period of meditation, pain intensity is weakened when subjected to unpleasent stimuli such as extreme heat.

The study participants were taught a meditation technique known as focused attention, which involves paying close attention to breathing patterns while acknowledging and letting go of thoughts that distract you.

Fadel Zeidan, PhD, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, says:

“This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation.”…

….Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center News Release

 

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doctors lax in monitoring potentially addicting drugs

Source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse, ...

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Doctors lax in monitoring potentially addicting drugs
Study: Missed opportunity to reduce opioid-related abuse, addiction and overdose

From a March 3 2011 Eureka news alert

March 3, 2011 — (BRONX, NY) — Few primary care physicians pay adequate attention to patients taking prescription opioid drugs — despite the potential for abuse, addiction and overdose, according to a new study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

The study, published in the March 2 online edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine,*** found lax monitoring even of patients at high risk for opioid misuse, such as those with a history of drug abuse or dependence. The findings are especially concerning considering that prescription drug abuse now ranks second (after marijuana) among illicitly used drugs, with approximately 2.2 million Americans using pain relievers nonmedically for the first time in 2009, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

“Our study highlights a missed opportunity for identifying and reducing misuse of prescribed opioids in primary care settings,” said lead author Joanna Starrels, M.D., M.S. , assistant professor ofmedicine at Einstein. “The finding that physicians did not increase precautions for patients at highest risk for opioid misuse should be a call for a standardized approach to monitoring.”…

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March 4, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Safety, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Researchers working toward automating sedation in intensive care units

Researchers working toward automating sedation in intensive care units

Georgia Institute of Technology Research News) Researchers are one step closer to their goal of automating the management of sedation in hospital intensive care units. They have developed control algorithms that use clinical data to accurately determine a patient’s level of sedation and can notify medical staff if there is a change in the level.

 

 

From the February 15, 2011 Eureka news alert

Computer system for evaluating sedation level shows strong agreement with clinical assessment
IMAGE: Georgia Tech researchers Wassim Haddad, Allen Tannenbaum and Behnood Gholami (left-right) and Northeast Georgia Medical Center chief medical informatics officer James Bailey have developed control algorithms to automate sedation in…

Click here for more information. 

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Northeast Georgia Medical Center are one step closer to their goal of automating the management of sedation in hospital intensive care units (ICUs). They have developed control algorithms that use clinical data to accurately determine a patient’s level of sedation and can notify medical staff if there is a change in the level.

“ICU nurses have one of the most task-laden jobs in medicine and typically take care of multiple patients at the same time, so if we can use control system technology to automate the task of sedation, patient safety will be enhanced and drug delivery will improve in the ICU,” said James Bailey, the chief medical informatics officer at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Ga. Bailey is also a certified anesthesiologist and intensive care specialist.

During a presentation at the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, the researchers reported on their analysis of more than 15,000 clinical measurements from 366 ICU patients they classified as “agitated” or “not agitated.” Agitation is a measure of the level of patient sedation. The algorithm returned the same results as the assessment by hospital staff 92 percent of the time.

“Manual sedation control can be tedious, imprecise, time-consuming and sometimes of poor quality, depending on the skills and judgment of the ICU nurse,” said Wassim Haddad, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Aerospace Engineering. “Ultimately, we envision an automated system in which the ICU nurse evaluates the ICU patient, enters the patient’s sedation level into a controller, which then adjusts the sedative dosing regimen to maintain sedation at the desired level by continuously collecting and analyzing quantitative clinical data on the patient.”…

IMAGE: Georgia Tech researchers Allen Tannenbaum, Wassim Haddad and Behnood Gholami (left-right) and Northeast Georgia Medical Center chief medical informatics officer James Bailey have developed control algorithms to automate sedation in…

Click here for more information. 

 

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This project is supported in part by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command (Grant No. 08108002). The content is solely the responsibility of the principal investigator (Wassim Haddad) and does not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Army….

 

 

 

 

February 15, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Zen meditators don’t think about won’t hurt them

From a PsycPost December 8 2010 news item

Buddhist monkZen meditation has many health benefits, including a reduced sensitivity to pain. According to new research from the Université de Montréal, meditators do feel pain but they simply don’t dwell on it as much. These findings, published in the month’s issue of Pain, may have implications for chronic pain sufferers, such as those with arthritis, back pain or cancer.

“Our previous research found that Zen meditators have lower pain sensitivity. The aim of the current study was to determine how they are achieving this,” says senior author Pierre Rainville, researcher at the Université de Montréal and the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal. “Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we demonstrated that although the meditators were aware of the pain, this sensation wasn’t processed in the part of their brains responsible for appraisal, reasoning or memory formation. We think that they feel the sensations, but cut the process short, refraining from interpretation or labeling of the stimuli as painful.”

Training the brain

Rainville and his colleagues compared the response of 13 Zen meditators to 13 non-meditators to a painful heat stimulus. Pain perception was measured and compared with functional MRI data. The most experienced Zen practitioners showed lower pain responses and decreased activity in the brain areas responsible for cognition, emotion and memory (the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus). In addition, there was a decrease in the communication between a part of the brain that senses the pain and the prefrontal cortex.

“Our findings lead to new insights into mind/brain function,” says first author, Joshua Grant, a doctoral student at the Université de Montréal. “These results challenge current concepts of mental control, which is thought to be achieved by increasing cognitive activity or effort. Instead, we suggest it is possible to self-regulate in a more passive manner, by ‘turning off’ certain areas of the brain, which in this case are normally involved in processing pain.”

“The results suggest that Zen meditators may have a training-related ability to disengage some higher-order brain processes, while still experiencing the stimulus,” says Rainville. “Such an ability could have widespread and profound implications for pain and emotion regulation and cognitive control. This behaviour is consistent with the mindset of Zen and with the notion of mindfulness.”

 

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment

Nursing homes are seeking to end the stupor

[Editor Flahiff’s note: I remember visiting my great aunt in a nursing home in the early 70’s (I was in my late teens) I found the stupor among the residents very sad…this story was very refreshing to read…

My husband can attest to the importance of personal attention…he is retired and goes to senior centers daily for lunch and the “pool halls”. He makes it a point to visit with those sitting alone at lunch…and has brought a number of folks out their shells during the past few years]

Instead of treating behavioral problems with antipsychotic drugs, the Ecumen chain of 15 homes is using strategies including aromatherapy, massage, music, games, exercise and good talk. The state is helping out.

From the December 4th Star Tribune article by Warren Wolfe (via a NetGold Posting by David P Dillard )

The aged woman had stopped biting aides and hitting other residents. That was the good news.

But in the North Shore nursing home‘s efforts to achieve peace, she and many other residents were drugged into a stupor — sleepy, lethargic, with little interest in food, activities and other people.

“You see that in just about any nursing home,” said Eva Lanigan, a nurse and resident care coordinator at Sunrise Home in Two Harbors, Minn. “But what kind of quality of life is that?”

Working with a psychiatrist and a pharmacist, Lanigan started a project last year to find other ways to ease the yelling, moaning, crying, spitting, biting and other disruptive behavior that sometimes accompany dementia.

They wanted to replace drugs with aromatherapy, massage, games, exercise, personal attention, better pain control and other techniques. The entire staff was trained and encouraged to interact with residents with dementia.

Within six months, they eliminated antipsychotic drugs and cut the use of antidepressants by half. The result, Lanigan said: “The chaos level is down, but the noise is up — the noise of people laughing, talking, much more engaged with life. It’s amazing.”…

….Medicare spends more than $5 billion a year on those [antipsychotic] drugs for its beneficiaries, including about 30 percent of nursing home residents. Several studies have concluded that more than half are prescribed inappropriately. The drugs are especially hazardous to older people, raising the risk of strokes, pneumonia, confusion, falls, diabetes and hospitalization….

….

Instead of looking for causes of disruptive behavior among dementia patients, doctors typically prescribe drugs to mask the symptoms, he said, because “It’s the easy thing to do. … That’s true in hospitals, in clinics and in nursing homes.”

Federal regulators are cracking down on homes that don’t routinely reassess residents on psychotropic drugs. But use remains widespread….

December 6, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speak Up: What You Should Know about Pain Management

Excerpts from the Joint Commission Patient Handout

Questions To Ask Your Caregivers
􏰀What pain medicine is being ordered or given to you?
􏰀Can you explain the doses and times that the
medicine needs to be taken?
􏰀What should you do if the medicine makes you sick
to your stomach?
􏰀What can you do if the pain medicine is not working?
􏰀What else can you do to help treat your pain?


Are there other ways to relieve pain?

That will depend on your illness or condition and how
much pain you have. Sometimes pain can be relieved
in other ways. Some other treatments for pain are
listed here
􏰀Acupuncture, which uses small needles to block pain
􏰀Taking your mind off the pain with movies, games
and conversation
􏰀Electrical nerve stimulation, which uses small jolts
of electricity to block pain
􏰀Physical therapy 􏰀Exercise
􏰀Hypnosis 􏰀Heat or cold
􏰀Massage 􏰀Relaxation

The Joint Commissionis an ” independent, not-for-profit organization, The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 18,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States”
Information for the General Public includes Helping You Choose Guides

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Acupuncture changes brain’s perception and processing of pain

From a November 30, 2010 Eureka news alert

CHICAGO – Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers have captured pictures of the brain while patients experienced a pain stimulus with and without acupuncture to determine acupuncture’s effect on how the brain processes pain. Results of the study, which the researchers say suggest the effectiveness of acupuncture, were presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)….
….”Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated under acupuncture,” Dr. Theysohn said.

Specifically, fMRI revealed significant activation in the contralateral supplementary motor area, somatosensory cortex, precuneus bilateral insula and ipsilateral somatomotor cortex during electrical pain stimulation without acupuncture. During acupuncture, activation in most of these pain-processing areas of the brain was significantly reduced.

According to Dr. Theysohn, in addition to the assumed specific effects on the pain signal, acupuncture also affected brain activation in areas governing the patients’ expectations of pain, similar to a placebo analgesic response.

The anterior insula, for example, plays a role in transforming pain sensation to cognition and represents a subjective component of pain sensation. The reduction in activation of the primary somatosensory cortex and the insula during acupuncture indicates an acupuncture-induced modulation of the sensory encoding of the painful stimulus.

“Acupuncture is supposed to act through at least two mechanisms—nonspecific expectancy-based effects and specific modulation of the incoming pain signal,” Dr. Theysohn said. “Our findings support that both these nonspecific and specific mechanisms exist, suggesting that acupuncture can help relieve pain.”

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Coauthors are Kyung-Eun Choi, M.Sc., Elke Gizewski, M.D., Ph.D., Thomas Rampp, M.D., Gustav Dobos, M.D., Ph.D., Michael Forsting, M.D., Ph.D., and Frauke Musial, Ph.D.

Note: Copies of RSNA 2010 news releases and electronic images will be available online at RSNA.org/press10 beginning Monday, Nov. 29.

RSNA is an association of more than 46,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists committed to excellence in patient care through education and research. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill. (RSNA.org)

Editor’s note: The data in these releases may differ from those in the published abstract and those actually presented at the meeting, as researchers continue to update their data right up until the meeting. To ensure you are using the most up-to-date information, please call the RSNA Newsroom at 1-312-949-3233.

For patient-friendly information on fMRI, visit RadiologyInfo.org.

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , | Leave a comment

   

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