Health briefs: Imprecise medical measurements can cause dangerous mistakes

  • Updated: July 19, 2014 - 3:00 PM
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Frank Bello of American heavy metal band Anthrax performs during the "Big Four" concert at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sept. 14, 2011. In alphabetical order, Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer ñ who all played in a thorough and memorable seven-hour concert on Wednesday night ñ were the most popular bands of mid-1980s thrash-metal. (Chad Batka/The New York Times)

spooning doses may be harmful

The song says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but a study says imprecise measurement can lead to potentially dangerous dosing mistakes.

The results, published online in Pediatrics, underscore recommendations that droppers and syringes that measure in milliliters be used for liquid medicines — not spoons. The study involved nearly 300 parents with children younger than 9 years old. The youngsters were treated for various illnesses at New York City emergency rooms and sent home with prescriptions for liquid medicines.

Parents were contacted afterward and asked by phone how they had measured the prescribed doses.

Parents who used spoonfuls “were 50% more likely to give their children incorrect doses,” said co-author Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, an associate professor at New York University’s medical school.

Almost one-third of the parents gave the wrong dose and 1 in 6 used a spoon.

“Outreach to pharmacists and other health professionals is needed to promote the consistent use of milliliter units between prescriptions and bottle labels,” the authors said.

the dangers of rocking out

Dancing at a heavy metal concert could be bad for your health. German doctors described the case of a 50-year-old man who went to a hospital with a continual and worsening headache.

– bleeding into the space between the fibrous membrane that covers the brain. Then he mentioned that four weeks before, he had attended a concert by the band Motörhead and engaged in a form of movement popular with heavy metal fans: headbanging, which involves rapid shaking of the head in time to a song. Though the activity is usually harmless, doctors found three cases in the medical literature of subdural hematoma caused by the practice.

Do you really need to fast for tests?

Guidelines from the National Institutes of Health recommend fasting for nine to 12 hours before taking a blood lipid test, but a large study in journal Circulation provides further evidence that fasting is probably unnecessary.

Researchers used a large database to study blood lipid readings in more than 16,000 men and women. About 10,000 of the readings were taken after a fast of more than eight hours, the rest for less. Then they tracked the two groups for an average of 14 years to see if a fasting or non-fasting reading was a better predictor of the risk for heart disease and death.

Higher readings of LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides did, as expected, correlate with higher risk for heart disease and death. But when fasters and non-fasters were matched for race, sex, smoking status, diabetes, high blood pressure and other characteristics, there was no difference over 14 years in the predictive value of fasting or non-fasting readings for either cardiovascular or all-cause mortality. “There is no robust data supporting the utility of fasting, and it’s high time we stopped insisting on it,” said the senior author, Dr. Sripal Bangalore, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

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