Health briefs: Migraines open its sufferers to changes in the brain

  • September 7, 2013 - 4:06 PM

That head-splitting migraine attack that knocks you off your feet may also put you at risk of permanent changes in the brain, an analysis of 19 studies said.

The potential for increased abnormalities in the signal-carrying white matter of the brain appears strongest among those who suffer headache warning symptoms, such as flashes of light, blind spots and tingling, said the analysis published online in the journal Neurology. Those “migraine with aura” sufferers were about 1.7 times as likely to have such anomalies than were the non-migraine population, the analysis found.

But the significance of these white-matter blips and other tissue changes remains elusive, and there is some question about whether the variances mark a migraine-prone brain or the ravages of the attacks, researchers said. Migraine headaches affect about 10 percent-15 percent of the population, and about a third of those experience aura symptoms, the study said.


Fast care doesn’t lower heart deaths

One of the most successful efforts in modern medicine, cutting the time it takes to treat heart-attack patients after they arrive at a hospital, has failed to deliver on its most highly anticipated benefit: saving lives.

A study of 96,738 patients experiencing a massive heart attack showed time to treatment was reduced 20 percent to 67 minutes from 2005 to 2009 because of improved coordination among hospital units and emergency workers. Still, about 5 percent of patients died in the hospital in 2009, almost the same as four years earlier when care was slower, said research in the New England Journal of Medicine. The findings suggest additional efforts to treat patients faster once they reach the hospital could be in vain and may lead to errors in care, said Daniel Menees, an interventional cardiologist at the University of Michigan Medical School. Instead, public efforts should focus on other approaches, including teaching patients to recognize symptoms and encouraging them to reach out for help more quickly.


Is baby genome testing worth it?

For thousands of newborns born around Boston; San Francisco; Kansas City, Missouri; and North Carolina over the next several years, a full genomic sequencing may be among the medical tests conducted in the first days of baby’s life.

The procedure is anything but routine. But $20 million in grants announced by the National Institutes of Health will help decide whether such genomic analysis should be among the routine screenings conducted on all newborns.

Researchers aim to sequence the babies’ entire genomes in as few as 50 hours-turnaround time on a par with pinprick blood tests now routinely conducted to detect metabolic disorders such as phenylketonuria, blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia, endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism or inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

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