Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection, is a more serious problem for hospital patients and more costly to treat than four top medical conditions, according to a recent published analysis done by experts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
The most common types of infections that lead to sepsis are pneumonia and abdominal, kidney or bloodstream infections. According to the National Institutes of Health, every year more than 1 million Americans get severe sepsis, and between 28 percent and 50 percent of them are believed to die from it.
Quality of care measures used by the federal government for health care facilities count the rates of readmission for heart attack, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Pittsburgh analysis of a 2013 nationwide readmission database found that sepsis was the cause of 12.2 percent of readmissions, compared to 6.7 percent for heart failure, 5 percent for pneumonia, 4.6 percent for COPD and 1.3 percent for heart attack.
An estimate of average cost for each readmission for sepsis was $10,070, with $9,533 for pneumonia, $9,424 for heart attack, $9,051 for heart failure and $8,417 for COPD.
Improving outcomes for patients with sepsis should be a priority, according to lead author Florian B. Mayr of the Pitt department of critical care medicine and the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the VA Pittsburgh.
New site for Prevention Point
Prevention Point Pittsburgh will be moving its Sunday operations to the East Liberty office of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force on April 2. Prevention Point offers needle exchange, case management, drug treatment and risk reduction counseling.
The move represents a partnership for both groups’ efforts to prevent new HIV and hepatitis C infections, identify infections and provide treatment if needed. PATF has provided free testing for HIV, hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections at Prevention Point’s Oakland location, at 3441 Forbes Ave.
Starting in April, testing and medical care will be available to Prevention Point clients at the new Sunday clinic, which will operate from noon to 3 p.m. at PATF, 5913 Penn Ave., East Liberty.
Pitt part of exercise study
A University of Pittsburgh team of researchers led by John M. Jakicic will be part of a group of 19 centers in the nation to collaborate in a large-scale study to understand why exercise is beneficial to health.
The Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans program is funded by the National Institutes of Health, which is spending about $170 million over the next six years for the research. Individual projects will examine internal elements, such as hormones, nucleic acids and proteins, that transmit health benefits of physical activity. Those findings and how they are affected by factors such as age, sex and fitness levels will be used to build a publicly accessible database for future research.
Mr. Jakicic, who holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, will lead a team recruiting healthy adults from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds for an exercise study. Samples of blood, urine and tissue will be collected from active and sedentary volunteers doing resistance and aerobic exercises.
More info helps parents
Giving parents of overweight or obese children educational materials in addition to results of body mass index screening seemed to make the BMI information more useful, according to a recent study in the journal Childhood Obesity.
The study was led by Iowa State University and Geisinger Health System researchers who create obesity prevention programs for young people. One group of parents of children in 31 elementary schools got both the BMI results and information on how to interpret the report card as well as guidance on what they could do. Another group received only the BMI report. Those with the education were more likely to say they plan a visit to a health care provider and intend to limit sugar-sweetened drinks.
Sickle cell and blood sugar
Blood sugar readings, important to manage diabetes, might not be accurate in African-Americans with sickle cell trait, according to a new study from Brown University researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
More than 4,600 people participating in two major studies provided data for the Brown study, which reported that tests of HbA1c, the common blood-sugar test, found lower levels in people who had the sickle cell trait than otherwise similar people. Blood-glucose readings, an alternate test, were similar in the two groups.
Sickle cell trait is a genetic hemoglobin variant, found in 8 percent to 10 percent of African-Americans. With two copies of the mutation, a person will develop sickle cell disease.
As a result of the lower blood-sugar results, the research said, there were 40 percent fewer potential cases of prediabetes identified and 48 percent fewer potential cases of diabetes found in the people carrying the trait compared to those without. The research did not explain why the HbA1c readings differed in the two groups.
Alzheimer’s and DNA
A Carnegie Mellon University lab will develop new techniques for analyzing large datasets of DNA segments for an international two-year $4 million project to translate genetic findings into new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.
The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund put together a team involving Andreas Pfenning, assistant professor in Carnegie Mellon’s computational biology department, and eight researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Sheffield, England, and the University of Luebeck, Germany.
The National Institute on Aging reports there are 20-30 Alzheimer’s disease risk genes and DNA sequence variants. Researchers expect there are hundreds, maybe thousands, more. The NIA says that by finding gene-based risk or protection, research learns more about what goes on at the molecular level and then how the disease starts and progresses in a person.
Doctor-rating sites critiqued
Online ratings of doctors on commercial websites have many drawbacks, says a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Looking at 28 physician-rating sites, researchers randomly chose 600 doctors from Boston, Portland, Ore., and Dallas and calculated the average and median number of reviews per doctor per site. They found few sites let a user search by clinical condition, the doctor’s gender, hospital affiliation, languages spoken or insurance accepted. They found 8,133 reviews for the 600 doctors. For doctors with at least one review, the median was seven reviews per doctor over all sites. One-third of the doctors had no review at all.
A more systematic collection of reviews would give patients a better picture of other patients’ experiences, the study authors wrote.
Jill Daly: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1596.