Medical Tests & Procedures

Medical Tests & Procedures Articles

Antibiotic resistance and the dangers of superbugs

The bacteria that cause disease are remarkably resilient and can develop ways to evade the drugs meant to kill or weaken them. This phenomenon is called antibiotic resistance and it is due largely to the growing, and often careless, use of antibiotics. Today, bacterial infections in the United States and throughout the world are becoming resistant to the drugs we rely on to treat them. Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world's most pressing public health problems. The smart use of antibiotics is the key to controlling the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the rise of superbugs—bacteria that cause infections that are difficult if not impossible to treat. More »

Treating blocked fallopian tubes

I am 39 years old, and was just diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes. Is my only option to have children through IVF due to my age? Can I have the tubes unblocked and then have artificial insemination since that's cheaper? A blockage of the fallopian tubes is one of the most common causes of infertility. It accounts for about one third of cases in women. However, determining the best way to treat it is a complex problem without a single, clear answer. The blockage may have come from scar tissue caused by a pelvic infection, endometriosis, or pelvic surgery. (Locked) More »

Cancer screening as we age

There is some controversy about whether or not people should continue to get screening tests for certain cancers after age 75. Variables include the person's overall health and whether or not additional life expectancy can be achieved. More »

Gene tests for some, not all

Certain inherited genetic conditions increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, so having a genetic test may show whether a person is at risk for heart disease, especially if a family member has one of the conditions. More »

Medication vs. stents for heart disease treatment

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.  What's the best way to "fix" a narrowed coronary artery? That question was the crux of a multimillion-dollar trial dubbed COURAGE, short for Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation. Its results, presented in the spring of 2007, stunned some doctors and seemed to shock the media, but we hope they won't come as a surprise to readers: For people with stable coronary artery disease (clogged arteries nourishing the heart), artery-opening angioplasty was no better than medications and lifestyle changes at preventing future heart attacks or strokes, nor did it extend life. The media tended to play up the COURAGE results, which were presented at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in March, as a David slays Goliath story. But it wasn't that at all. (Locked) More »

Cholesterol testing at home: It may be faster, but is it better?

If you don't mind pricking a finger, you can check your cholesterol without sitting around in a doctor's waiting room or laboratory. Devices available in pharmacies or through the Internet make this easy to do at home. But is it worth doing? The makers of home cholesterol tests rightly tout their products as faster than visiting a doctor. You prick your finger, gently squeeze a few drops of blood onto a test strip or into a small "well," and you get the results in a few minutes, instead of waiting a few days. But faster isn't necessarily better. The results won't give you the information you need to figure out your risk of having a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem. Nor will they help you check whether a diet and exercise program is working. More »

Making sense of cholesterol tests

Time to get your cholesterol checked. Okay, but which test should you get? It's not so simple anymore. Here is a rundown of some of the choices and their pros and cons: Total cholesterol. This is the simplest and least expensive test. The test doesn't require any sophisticated lab work, either. The simple, do-it-yourself home cholesterol tests measure total cholesterol. But total cholesterol includes both "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and the "bad" varieties, chiefly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). So, if your total cholesterol is in the desirable category, it's possible that you may have unhealthy levels of HDL (too low) and LDL and VLDL (too high). Think of total cholesterol as a first glimpse, a peek. Doctors are not supposed to make any treatment decisions based on this number alone. More »

Blood pressure screening

High blood pressure may be the most common chronic condition plaguing adults. Physicians need to know the best method for screening patients to identify and treat those patients with hypertension. According to previous studies, ambulatory monitoring of blood pressure is the most accurate method. The patient wears a portable device programmed to automatically measure and record blood pressure at frequent intervals. But the device is expensive. So what is the best alternative? A study published in the August 3, 2002, issue of the British Medical Journal attempts to answer this question. In addition to ambulatory monitoring, blood pressure may be measured by a nurse or doctor, or by the patient. Measurements by a doctor are known to be elevated in some patients because of "white coat hypertension." In these cases, the anxiety of having one's blood pressure measured by a doctor causes elevated levels. More »