‘Tis the Flu Season

Ah, the joys of January 2! Bleary eyed employees return to work, holiday cards fill waste baskets, and everyone contracts influenza. This year’s flu season has started earlier than expected and has already reached high numbers of flu cases in 36 states. California is not one of them, but that likely means we’re a couple of weeks behind the East Coast, not that we’ll be spared. In fact, this week I saw my first patient of the season who had a positive test for the flu, and More

Retrievable Stents Offer Improved Outcomes for Stroke Patients

There are few illnesses as disabling as a stroke. A stroke is the cessation of blood flow to part of the brain. It can cause sudden difficulty speaking, difficulty moving a limb, facial drooping, or the loss of vision in a fragment of the field of view. In many stroke patients the loss of function never improves and the patients remain permanently disabled. Before the 1980s there was no effective treatment for this devastating illness. Stroke patients were simply observed and given physic...

Brain Dysfunction Persists Long After a Serious Illness

A sudden life-threatening illness is every family’s nightmare. A loved-one suddenly develops an overwhelming infection or is in a terrible accident. She is rushed to the intensive care unit (ICU) and is put on a ventilator (breathing machine). Many medications are started or she is rushed to surgery for her traumatic injuries. To the family, the first day or two is a blur of life-saving treatments, painfully waiting for the next update. The patient is on strong sedatives and non-communicativ...

On the Passage of Time

The sun will come up tomorrow. -- Little Orphan Annie

But in a trillion tomorrows the sun will become a red giant and extinguish all life on earth. -- astronomers

If you’re reading this...

Primary Care Doctors Want a Raise from Medicare

Imagine that you manufacture and sell ottomans. You are very proud of the excellent ottomans that you make. You trained for many years at great expense to become an expert ottoman maker. But as your career progresses, you find yourself generally dissatisfied with how many ottomans you have to make every day to make a living, and you think that your ottomans are worth more than you’re getting paid for them. But what really annoys you are coffee table makers. They get a lot higher prices for coff...

Armadillos Transmit Leprosy to Humans

Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is unclean by a dead armadillo. -- A horrible misquote of Numbers 5:2

Leprosy, now also called Hansen’s disease, is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae, a cousin of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. Leprosy causes a rash and nerve damage that causes skin numbness. Before the age of antibiotics patients were isolated in...

Study Linking Vaccines to Autism not Just Wrong, Intentionally Fraudulent

In 1998 the British medical journal Lancet published a study led by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that changed public opinion about vaccination ever since. The study described twelve children with autism and colitis whose symptoms began shortly after they received the MMR vaccine. Public panic was immediate and sustained. Vaccination rates plummeted in England and measles incidence climbed thereafter. Measles is now endemic in England, meaning that there are enough unvaccinated children that the infectio...