Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
The mild winter has led to an early allergy season in parts of the United States, health officials said this week. New research concludes that many low-risk patients are getting more costly anesthesia than they need for a colonoscopy. A group of experts released a report this week on dissolvable tobacco products. They said the products may be less dangerous than smoking. On the other hand, they may encourage more people to use tobacco.
This Issue: Early Spread of Pollen Follows Mild Winter Study Finds Extra Anesthesia Costs for Colonoscopy Report Examines Dissolvable Tobacco Products
In the News:
Early Spread of Pollen Follows Mild Winter
A mild winter has led to an early allergy season in parts of the United States, the Associated Press (AP) reported this week. The misery belt covers large parts of the South and Midwest, AP said. These areas have had a much warmer winter than usual, with few cold snaps. The worst problems are in places that also have been under drought conditions. They stretch from Mississippi north to Ohio and from Georgia west to Texas. Clinics in Nashville and Atlanta, for example, recorded record pollen levels this week. A National Weather Service meteorologist in east Tennessee told AP that early grass cutting also has spread around the grass pollen. A public health official in Knoxville noted that being in a valley doesn't help. Whatever gets into the air stays there, he said. A San Antonio hospital reported increased allergy cases showing up in the emergency room for the last few weeks.
Study Finds Extra Anesthesia Costs for Colonoscopy
Too many low-risk patients get the services of an anesthesia specialist for colonoscopy tests, a study published this week says. Colonoscopy is done to look for signs of colon cancer and some other diseases. The study also looked at endoscopy, which is a look at the upper digestive tract. People are put under sedation for both procedures. The doctor who does the test can give and monitor this in most cases. But a doctor or nurse specializing in anesthesia is needed for high-risk patients, the study authors said. The new study was based on insurance claims. They included more than 6 million U.S. adults who had a colonoscopy or endoscopy. In 2003, 14% used an anesthesia specialist. By 2009, this had more than doubled, to 30%. More than 3 out of 4 commercial insurance patients receiving this service were low-risk, the study found. So were 2 out of 3 Medicare patients who used anesthesia specialists. The authors estimated the extra costs at $1 billion for the year 2009. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Report Examines Dissolvable Tobacco Products
Tobacco products that dissolve in the mouth could have fewer health risks than cigarettes, an expert panel said this week. But these products also could increase overall tobacco use, the group said. The panel was charged with advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on dissolvable tobacco. The FDA recently gained authority to regulate tobacco products. Dissolvable tobacco is finely milled and pressed into tablets or other shapes. They dissolve in the mouth. Tobacco companies are exploring such products to make up for declines in cigarette use. The expert panel said they might reduce the risk of disease if people used them instead of cigarettes. But the group also said there's little research about these products. The Associated Press wrote about the report.
Used with the permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. The above summaries are not intended to provide advice on personal medical matters, nor are they intended to be a substitute for consultation with a physician.