Tests and procedures

New donor screening protocols for clinical trials involving fecal microbiota transplantation

The FDA has issued a safety alert about the risk of transmitting drug-resistant bacteria during a stool transplantation procedure, after the death of one person participating in a research protocol.

Need to check your thyroid? Maybe not

People who think they have hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) may expect or request a wide range of blood tests to confirm diagnosis. Yet a much simpler, less costly test can identify hypothyroidism in almost everyone.

Colorectal cancer screening before age 50?

While the incidence of colorectal cancer has declined among older adults, it has increased in people younger than 50. The American Cancer Society now recommends that adults be screened for this condition starting at age 45.

Stool transplants are now standard of care for recurrent C. difficile infections

Stool transplantation has become a standard treatment for people who have had multiple recurrent episodes of a bacterial infection; although the procedure has not been approved by the FDA, the success rate is high and the procedure is very safe.

Just do it… yourself: At-home colorectal cancer screening

Colonoscopy remains the best way to detect colorectal cancer, but there are at-home screening tests that do not involve the pre-test bowel clearing that many find uncomfortable.

Do you really have a penicillin allergy?

Many people who believe they are allergic to penicillin do not in fact have this allergy. Additionally, people who were allergic in the past may no longer be. An allergist can use various tests to determine whether a person has a true allergy.

Leaving time for last words

When a person needs to be intubated to help them breathe, they are unable to speak, and if something happens it’s possible for someone to die without a chance to have a final conversation with their loved ones. But it’s possible for doctors to adjust intubation protocol to allow for such a conversation.

H. pylori, a true stomach “bug”: Who should doctors test and treat?

Wynne Armand, MD

Contributing Editor

A stomach infection of H. pylori bacteria can cause ulcers, but not everyone with the infection shows symptoms and the treatment process can be challenging, so only people with certain conditions need to be tested for it.

What’s the evidence for evidence-based medicine?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

The history of medicine is filled with remedies that were relied upon for hundreds of years until they were eventually proven ineffective or possibly even dangerous, while legitimate practices and treatments were disregarded or ridiculed until evidence outweighed skepticism. The bottom line is that medical interventions — from tests to treatments — should neither be recommended nor condemned without considering and weighing the evidence. A future post will discuss what physicians look for when evaluating “the evidence.”

New imaging technique may help some men avoid prostate biopsy

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

In a British study, a specialized type of MRI test did significantly better at identifying high-grade prostate tumors than a transrectal ultrasound biopsy. It’s hoped that one day this test might help men avoid prostate biopsies and their potential complications.