Health Highlights: Dec. 2, 2009

NFL Issues Tougher Rules on Handling of Head Injuries Label to Warn of Heart Risks From Antidepressant: FDA Costs of Many Hospital Procedures Rise Sharply: Report Tyson Foods Warned About Seafood Storage Patient Uses Mind to Control Robotic Hand No New Tamiflu-Resistant H1N1 Cases at Duke

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

NFL Issues Tougher Rules on Handling of Head Injuries

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday sent a memo to the league's 32 professional football teams outlining the toughest rules yet for when players with head injuries can return to games or practices.

In the latest development in what has become a heated controversy, the new rules state that a player who gets a concussion should not return to action on the same day if he shows certain signs or symptoms. Those include an inability to remember assignments or plays, a gap in memory, persistent dizziness and persistent headaches, the Associated Press reported.

The previous rule, which was enacted two years ago, only stipulated that a player could not go back on the field if he lost consciousness.

The memo also stressed that players "are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion."

Nearly one-fifth of 160 NFL players surveyed by the AP in early November admitted that they have tried to downplay effects of a concussion. The league said on Wednesday that its concussion committee, team doctors, outside medical experts and the NFL Players Association developed the new standards.

This month, all NFL teams were told they must have an outside neurologist who can be consulted on concussions, and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday all of those independent doctors have been approved and are in place.

Since last month's congressional hearing on NFL head injuries, momentum has been building for changes in league policy.


Label to Warn of Heart Risks From Antidepressant: FDA

The antidepressant Norpramin should be used with "extreme caution" by patients with a history of certain heart problems, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

The agency said the label for Norpramin (desipramine hydrochloride) will now warn of potential risks to patients who have a family history of sudden death, cardiac dysrhythmias, and cardiac conduction disturbances; and that seizures precede cardiac dysrhythmias and death in some patients.

Norpramin is made by French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis SA.


Costs of Many Hospital Procedures Rise Sharply: Report

Costs for 10 common hospital procedures increased rapidly between 2004 and 2007, says a U.S. government report released Wednesday.

Increases in the number of patients undergoing the procedures accounted for about 75 percent of the rise, while the remaining 25 percent was related to higher costs per patient, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The 10 procedures that showed the most rapid increases in hospital costs were:

  • Bone marrow transplants. Up 85 percent from $694 million to $1.3 billion.
  • Open surgery for non-cancerous enlarged prostate. Up 69 percent to $1 billion.
  • Aortic valve resection or replacement. Up 38.5 percent to $1.9 billion.
  • Cancer chemotherapy. Up 33 percent to $2.6 billion.
  • Spinal fusion. Up 29.5 percent to $8.9 billion.
  • A type of lung cancer surgery called lobectomy. Up 29 percent to $1 billion.
  • Incision and drainage of skin and other tissues. Up 29 percent to $1 billion.
  • Knee surgery. Up 27.5 percent to $9.2 billion.
  • Nephrostomy (surgery to allow urine to pass through the kidneys). Up 25 percent to $683 million.
  • Mastectomy (breast removal because of cancer). Up 24 percent to $660 million.


Tyson Foods Warned About Seafood Storage

Inspectors found unsanitary conditions at a Tyson Foods plant in Forth Worth, Tex., that makes seafood soups, says a U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning letter sent to the company and posted on the agency's Web site.

The FDA said fish and crab at the plant were stored at dangerously high temperatures -- between 40 and 55 degrees F for about 18 hours -- but should be stored below 40 degrees F to prevent the growth of bacteria and toxins, the Associated Press reported.

"Pathogen growth and potential toxin formulation is a hazard reasonably likely to occur in the absence of (temperature) control, consequently, the hazard needs to be addressed," said the FDA warning letter.

Since the inspection, Tyson has updated its temperature control plan, the AP reported.

The fish and crab noted by FDA inspectors wasn't used in company products, according to Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson. "Our Forth Worth plant is clean and sanitary, and the products produced there are safe to eat," he said in a statement.


Patient Uses Mind to Control Robotic Hand

A man fitted with a robotic hand was able to control it with his thoughts and to feel sensations through the device, say European scientists.

At a news conference Wednesday, the Italian-led team said this is the first time an amputee has demonstrated the ability to use thoughts to control a biomechanic hand attached to the nervous system, the Associated Press reported.

Electrodes were implanted into the arm of the patient, who had lost his left hand and forearm in a car accident. During the month-long experiment, the man learned to wiggle the robotic hand's fingers and to make other hand movements.


No New Tamiflu-Resistant H1N1 Cases at Duke

No additional cases of Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 flu have been found at Duke University Hospital, according to preliminary results of extensive testing and screening, officials announced Tuesday.

On Nov. 20, the hospital reported that four patients in a single, isolated unit were confirmed as having Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 swine flu. The unit is for patients with seriously impaired immune systems and multiple other complex medical conditions.

Over the past 10 days, all patients in the unit were tested several times by the hospital, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Division of Public Health. No new cases of Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 were found.

The hospital is working with the CDC and state health officials to review the initial four reported cases. It's expected the assessment will continue for several more weeks.

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