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Health Highlights: Jan. 5, 2011

Cheney Must Make Decision About Heart Transplant Many Girls Make First Trip to Tanning Salon With Mom: Study Patient Beds Catching Fire: FDA Medicare Won't Pay for End-of-Life Planning

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

Cheney Must Make Decision About Heart Transplant

A decision on whether to seek a heart transplant will likely have to be made by former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney within the next few months, suggests a news report.

The mechanical heart pump Cheney, 69, received in July saved his life, according to doctors. The pump, called a ventricular assist device, helps the heart push blood through the arteries. The devices are implanted as a last resort either as a permanent measure or to keep a patient alive until they undergo a heart transplant.

Doctors say Cheney has a narrow time frame to make a decision about seeking a heart transplant because he will soon be too old to qualify for the procedure, The New York Times reported.

It is possible for patients with a ventricular assist device to live for years, but the long-term prospects are unclear. The devices carry a significant risk of infection.

None of Cheney's family or friends will reveal details about his heart condition or what he may be doing to deal with it, The Times reported.


Many Girls Make First Trip to Tanning Salon With Mom: Study

Mothers play a key role in their daughters' use of tanning salons, says a new study.

It included 227 female undergraduate students, ages 18 to 30, at East Tennessee State University. Nearly 40 percent said their first tanning salon experience was with their mother. These women tended to start tanning at a younger age than other women (age 14 vs. 16) and were nearly five times as likely to be "heavy tanners," reported.

The findings, published in the December issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology, didn't surprise lead researcher Katie Baker, a doctoral student at East Tennessee State University.

"I grew up in a community where indoor tanning was prevalent, and young women who want to start tanning before they reach 16 or 17 have to rely on their mother to not only transport them, but to pay for their tanning," Baker told

Tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation are one of the top cancer risks, according to the World Health Organization. A ban on tanning beds for people under 18 was considered last year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Patient Beds Catching Fire: FDA

An Ohio company has received a warning letter from U.S. health officials about problems with its electric beds, including fires that caused injury and death.

The Food and Drug Administration's Dec. 15 letter to Invacare Corp. says the company failed to document and investigate recurring malfunctions with the beds. The letter was posted Tuesday morning on the agency's Web site, the Associated Press reported.

Between April and July 2010, Invacare received four complaints about sparks or fires associated with the beds' electronics, the FDA said. Those cases include one where a bed caught fire and two patients had to be treated for smoke inhalation and chest pain, and another where a fire that started at the foot of the bed caused a patient's death.

There were other complaints about patients getting stuck between the mattress and bed rail, including one case where the problem allegedly caused the death of an 11-year-old child, AP reported.

The FDA told Invacare it must respond with plans for correcting the issues within 15 working days after receiving the letter.


Medicare Won't Pay for End-of-Life Planning

End-of-life planning will no longer be included in regulations covering annual physical examinations for Medicare patients, the Obama administration said Tuesday.

The abrupt change in the rule was done for procedural reasons, according to administration officials, but it's believed that political pressure was also a factor, according to The New York Times.

During debate about the new health care law, Republicans said inaccurately that a House version of the bill allowed a government panel to decide about end-of-life care for Medicare recipients. The White House is preparing to defend the health care law against attack by the new Republican majority in the House.

The reference in the Medicare regulation that listed "advance care planning" as one of the services that could be offered in annual physical examinations was widely supported by doctors and providers of hospice care, The Times reported.

Some officials at the Department of Health and Human Services are upset by the decision to delete the reference to end-of-life care. The officials say such discussions help ensure patients get the care they desire.


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