From a new tool for measuring life-threatening liver disease to why family medicine physicians might misdiagnose heart disease in patients who exercise regularly, there is no shortage of family medicine news.
Here is a look at three recent stories that every family medicine physician should be aware of:
Physicians at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital have identified a simple way to detect biliary atresia and other neonatal liver diseases in newborns. The blood test is a game changer for physicians, who up until now have not had an easy way to screen for the hard-to-detect biliary atresia, which is a condition in infants that results in bile ducts inside or outside the liver not having normal openings.
The new blood test allows physicians to diagnose and treat the diseases earlier, which could result in fewer infants needing liver transplants.
The physicians’ research was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers note that the study, which took place over a 15-month period at four Houston-area hospitals, needs to be confirmed in larger studies. But, they add, if it is confirmed, it could mean that every infant could now be easily screen for biliary artresia the same way they are screen for other diseases.
Family medicine physicians across the county frequently encourage their patients to exercise on a regular basis. Now a study conducted in the journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging reveals that those same physicians need to be aware of a common side effect to regular exercise–or they might misdiagnose their patients with heart disease.
Researchers with the British Heart Foundation, Imperial College London and Imperial College’s National Heart and Lung Institute conducted a study that showed that regular exercise can thicken heart muscle and increase the volume of heart chambers, particularly the right ventricle. Both are perfectly normal and healthy bodily responses to exercise–they are also symptoms of heart disease.
The researchers made their study available via several medical news outlets to make family medicine physicians aware that when thickness and volume occur in tandem, it is likely that it is not the result of heart disease, which occur in isolation.
With concussion rates on the rise–especially among adolescents–physicians are looking for new tools to help them assess cognitive skills after head injuries. They soon may have it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that the agency has permitted marketing of two new computerized devices that help physicians assess a patient’s cognitive functions immediately following a suspected brain injury or concussion.
The tests, called Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) and ImPACT Pediatric, are the first medical devices that have received permission from the FDA to begin marketing themselves to family medicine physicians.
According to Carlos Pena, Ph.D., M.S., who is director of the division of the division of neurological and physical medicine devices with the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the devices provide a “useful new tool to aid in the evaluation of patients experiencing possible sings of a concussion.” But, Pena adds, physicians should not rely exclusively on the tests to diagnose a concussion or determine when a patient can return to physical activity.
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