Health Highlights: Nov. 25, 2014

Double-Arm Transplant Patient Doing Well Raw Bean Sprouts From NYC Supplier Linked to 10-State Salmonella Outbreak Hi-Tech Spoon Remains Steady in Trembling Hands Phoenix VA Medical Center Director Fired Regenerative Medicine Pioneer Being Investigated

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

Double-Arm Transplant Patient Doing Well

An American man who received a double-arm transplant in October can already move his thumb and wrist, and is expected to continue to gain function and sensation in his new arms over the next several years.

At a press conference Tuesday, 40-year-old Will Lautzenheiser expressed his appreciation for the extraordinary gift, NBC News reported.

"I hope to be able to live up to the memory of this man and make this worthwhile," the stand-up comic and former film teacher said. "This person who is anonymous to me will always be as close to me as my own skin now, and it's really an incredible gift."

Lautzenheiser had both arms and legs amputated in 2011 after he developed an aggressive streptococcus A infection that led to sepsis. He was approved for the rare double-arm transplant earlier this year, NBC News reported.

The procedure at Brigham and Women's Hospital took nearly nine hours and involved a team of 35 clinicians, including 13 surgeons.

"You could not wish for a better patient," said Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, director of Plastic Surgery Transplantation, NBC News reported. "He's got the right attitude and he is incredibly diligent in everything he does."

The function of Lautzenheiser's limbs should continue to improve over the next several years as nerves regrow, and he will need to remain on immunosuppression drugs to prevent his body from rejecting his new arms, doctors said.

"There were so many things that I didn't even realize I missed doing and now the capacity for doing those things is within reach, literally within reach," Lautzenheiser told NBC News.

He was one of the first people to be put on a U.S. waiting list for arm transplants in July when changes in classification placed limbs and faces in the same category as organs such as lungs, hearts and kidneys.

"These sorts of transplants are becoming more common, although they are still relatively rare," said Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer for the United Network for Organ Sharing told NBC News. "The whole community that is involved in this is sort of gradually expanding."

Lautzenheiser said he may consider leg transplants in the future, but is focused on his new arms for the moment.

"I think it will be at least a year or maybe two years before I start thinking about another major surgery that would require two years of rehab. I don't know how much of my 40s I want to spend doing rehab," he joked, NBC News reported.



Raw Bean Sprouts From NYC Supplier Linked to 10-State Salmonella Outbreak

Raw bean sprouts from a supplier in New York City have been linked to a salmonella outbreak that's sickened 63 people in 10 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency said that Wonton Food Inc. of Brooklyn "has verbally agreed to voluntarily stop the production and sale of their bean sprouts while they take steps to prevent Salmonella contamination," the Associated Press reported.

The illnesses occurred between the end of September and early November and affected people in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, the CDC said.

The agency said the one ill person from Montana was likely exposed on a trip to the East Coast, the AP reported.

Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, and typically appear 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.

This is just the latest food poisoning outbreak linked to raw sprouts. Mung bean sprouts were linked to two listeria deaths and three listeria illnesses in the Midwest during the summer, and raw clover sprouts caused 19 E. coli illnesses in mostly Western states in the spring.

Health officials advise against eating any types of raw sprouts, which have been linked to more than 30 illness outbreaks since the mid-1990s, the AP reported.

The moist, warm conditions required to grow raw sprouts are the reason why they frequently cause foodborne illness.

"The conditions for growing sprouts are perfect for growing bacteria and that's why they are so dangerous," Caroline Smith DeWaal, a food safety expert with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the AP.


Hi-Tech Spoon Remains Steady in Trembling Hands

A Google-owned company is working on a hi-tech spoon that remains steady in the trembling hands of people with conditions such as Parkinson's disease and essential tremors.

Lift Labs' Liftware Spoon senses how a hand is shaking and makes immediate adjustments to keep the spoon steady. Tests showed that it reduced shaking of the spoon bowl by an average of 76 percent, the Los Angeles Times reported.

While other products -- such as weighted utensils -- have been created for people with tremors, this is the first device of its kind.

"I have some patients who couldn't eat independently, they had to be fed, and now they can eat on their own," Dr. Jill Ostrem, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, told the Times.

The Liftware Spoon "doesn't cure the disease -- they still have a tremor -- but it's a very positive change," said Ostrem, who specializes in movement disorders.


Phoenix VA Medical Center Director Fired

The director of the Phoenix VA Medical Center was fired Monday due to long patient wait times and attempts to cover up the problem.

Sharon Helman was placed on administrative leave six months ago after it was discovered that hospital workers had altered patient wait lists to conceal long delays many veterans faced before they saw a doctor, The New York Times reported.

On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it had "formally removed" Helman because "allegations of lack of oversight and other misconduct were substantiated," in an investigation by the department's inspector general.

Those shortcomings run "counter to our mission of serving veterans, and VA will not tolerate it," VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement.

A new interim director has been appointed at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. A lawyer for Helman declined to comment, The Times reported.


Regenerative Medicine Pioneer Being Investigated

A leader in the field of regenerative medicine is under investigation after complaints that he did not get ethical approvals for experimental surgeries and misled medical journals about the success of the procedures.

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini removed diseased or damaged windpipes from patients and implanted plastic replacements treated with stem cells and drugs to promote the growth of new tissue, The New York Times reported.

The operations were performed on three patients at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. The Karolinska Institute has asked an independent expert to investigate the complaints against Macchiarini.

Four doctors who were involved in the treatment and care of the patients filed the complaints last month.

"Since the accusations against Dr. Macchiarini are serious and detailed, I considered that they should be thoroughly investigated," said Anders Hamsten, vice chancellor of the institute, The Times reported.

He expects to have the investigator's findings by mid-January.

The accusations against him are unfounded and he is confident he will be cleared, Macchiarini said.

"We have never ever manipulated data," and complied with all medical ethics regulations and laws, Macchiarini told The Times.

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