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Health Highlights: Oct. 12, 2003

Conjoined Twins Survive Complicated Surgery A 'Pacemaker' to Fight Obesity? Silicone Breast Implant Proponents Trying Again Quarantined Cattle Don't Have Foot-and-Mouth Disease Massachusetts Ranked as Smartest State

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

Conjoined Twins Survive Complicated Surgery

Two-year-old Egyptian twins joined at the top of their heads have been successfully separated after 26 hours of surgery.

Doctors at Children's Medical Center Dallas worked separated the intricate connection of blood vessels running between the brains of Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim, the wire service reports. "They are now within striking distance of living independent lives," Dr. Jim Thomas, chief of critical care at the hospital, told the Associated Press.

The next procedure will involve reconstructing their skulls and covering the wounds with skin, Thomas said. So far, the boys were doing well, he added.

According to the AP, once their head wounds are closed, the boys will go to an intensive care unit, where they will remain in a drug-induced coma for three to five days, doctors said.

The surgery is expected to last up to 90 hours, and more than 50 medical professionals are participating.

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A 'Pacemaker' to Fight Obesity?

How about a device that sends an electrical impulse to your stomach, making you feel like you've had enough to eat?

Believe it or not, researchers have presented just that kind of "pacemaker" for obese people at the annual scientific meeting of the American Association for the Study of Obesity in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

According to the Associated Press, the implantable gastric stimulator -- similar to a cardiac pacemaker -- "fools the body into feeling full and could be an effective alternative to radical digestive surgery for helping obese people shed large amounts of weight."

The stimulator has already been tested successfully on 450 obese people who lost an average of 18 percent of their excess weight. Researchers, headed by Dr. Scott Shikora of Tufts University, hope that studies involving more people will show that the stimulator is a much safer alternative to radical stomach surgery that obese people sometimes choose.

The research was financed by the device's developer, Transneuronix Inc. of Mt. Arlington, N.J.

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Silicone Breast Implant Proponents Trying Again

Cosmetic surgery has never been bigger business than it is right now.

And with that in mind, Inamed Corporation, a firm that The New York Times says deals in aesthetics, wants the federal government to reconsider the 10-year ban on silicone breast implants. It has filed a large amount of documentation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in preparation for arguments next week over whether the government should lift its ban.

According to the Times, the files "include laboratory reports, animal studies, data from a decade of large epidemiological studies conducted after implants were removed from the market in 1992 and the company's own studies, over several years, following women who had had its implants."

The primary argument silicone proponents will make, the Times says, is that the damage that comes from leakage or rupturing does not lead to diseases like lupus or cancer, as originally had been claimed.

The information being submitted doesn't deny that the silicone implants can rupture, but it maintains that silicone breast implants are generally safe, The Times reports.

Lawsuits caused Dow Corning to declare bankruptcy and forced it and other companies to set up a multibillion-dollar fund pay for claims made by women who claimed the implants had damaged them.

The FDA hearings will be day-long events next Tuesday and Wednesday. No exact date is given for a decision.

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Quarantined Cattle Don't Have Foot-and-Mouth Disease

The good news is that 40 cattle quarantined earlier in the week because they had blisters in their mouths don't have the contagious foot-and-mouth disease. But scientists still don't know what caused the blisters.

The Associated Press reports that Peter Fernandez, associate administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, made the announcement late Friday after the quarantine led Mexico to close the United States-Mexico border to livestock.

Foot-and-mouth disease's virus has been identified in livestock since the late 1800s. It is an epidemic, contagious, viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals.

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Massachusetts Declared the Smartest State

Home to renowned schools of higher learning including Harvard and MIT, Massachusetts has been ranked as the smartest state in the United States by the editors of Morgan Quitno Press in their annual reference book, Education State Rankings.

At the other end of the scale, New Mexico came in last for the second-straight year.

The list is based on 21 factors, including per pupil spending; public high school graduation rates; average class size; student reading, writing and math proficiency; and pupil/teacher ratios.

Rounding out the top five states are: Vermont, Connecticut (last year's winner), Montana and New Jersey. For the complete list, visit http://www.morganquitno.com/edrank03.htm.

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