Medical Tests & Procedures Archive


5 important blood tests beyond the basics

Five blood tests beyond basic blood work may be worth pursuing for older adults. For example, a test to determine one’s vitamin B12 level might be helpful, since older adults sometimes have trouble absorbing that vitamin. Likewise, older adults have less ability to absorb sunlight through the skin, which may lead to less production of vitamin D. Other blood tests to consider include those for HIV or hepatitis C infection, and a test to measure fasting blood sugar.

Advisory group: Too soon to recommend routine vitamin D screening

An advisory group finds there is not enough evidence to recommend routine screening for vitamin D deficiency.

Large review study finds low risk of erectile dysfunction after prostate biopsy

Prostate cancer biopsies have a low risk of side effects, but some men do experience sexual dysfunction after the procedure. But a large review of sdudies has found that these issues usually resolve within one to three months.

Screening for lung cancer

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends more people should undergo lung cancer screening.

More people now eligible for lung cancer screening

Updated guidelines suggest current and former smokers get an annual lung cancer screening including those who have quit within the past 15 years.

Less-invasive treatment for unsightly leg veins as good as surgery

Research we're watching

A minimally invasive treatment for treating varicose veins is as effective as surgery to remove the faulty veins, according to a new study.

Most varicose veins — gnarled, bluish veins just under the skin's surface — result from problems with the great saphenous vein, the large vein located near the inside of the leg that runs from the ankle to the upper thigh. The surrounding muscles and one-way valves in the vein weaken, a condition called venous insufficiency.

Suspected heart attack? Don’t fear the emergency room due to COVID-19

In addition to a prompt assessment and potentially lifesaving treatment, expect a COVID-19 test and extra safety precautions.

Even before the pandemic, people with heart attack symptoms sometimes hesitated to seek emergency care. But during the first wave of COVID-19 infections in early 2020, many more people than usual stayed away. From mid-March to late May 2020, emergency room visits for heart attacks fell by 23% compared with the preceding 10 weeks. And 20% fewer people showed up with strokes, according to the CDC.

Fear of leaving home and risking exposure to the coronavirus likely explains this trend, which has abated over time. "The overall volume at emergency rooms is still somewhat below normal, and we're seeing people who come in many hours or even a day after their heart attack symptoms began," says Dr. Joshua Kosowsky, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School. These people sometimes have signs of heart damage that might have been easier to reverse or treat if they had come in right away, he adds.

Seeing your way to better eye health

Maintaining your vision as you age requires a proactive approach.

Did you know that women are more likely than men to have eye conditions that can lead to vision loss, such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts? According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 60% of people with these conditions are women, in part because they live longer, and risk rises with age.

While women may be more at risk for eye disease, you should also know that in many instances, vision loss is not inevitable if you are proactive about your eye health.

5 tips to help you stay safe during medical treatment

Medication errors and communication problems may put people at risk.

It's been 20 years since the Institute of Medicine published its landmark report To Err is Human. It found that as many as 98,000 people were dying each year from preventable medical errors, prompting an industrywide patient safety effort that has spanned the past two decades.

An editorial published in JAMA Dec. 29, 2020, notes that in the years since that report came out, hospitals and doctors have made numerous changes that have succeeded in reducing preventable problems, such as hospital-acquired infections, falls, and medication-related errors. But more work remains to be done. Mistakes still happen.

Imaging overload: How many tests are too many?

Diagnostic technology makes it possible to detect many conditions. But is it safe to get lots of x-rays or CT scans?

When your doctor orders an occasional x-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan, you probably focus on the findings, not the amount of radiation you'll be exposed to. But if you need numerous tests, you may wonder if you're getting too much radiation exposure and how it might affect you. The concern about radiation exposure is an increased risk for developing cancer later in life. Ionizing radiation from tests such as x-rays or CT scans has the potential to damage tissue in the body, including cell DNA.

"As DNA is damaged, this causes mutations. Some of these are repaired by our cells, but others escape repair. In rare circumstances, these mutations may cause cells to divide rapidly without control," explains Dr. Mark Hammer, a radiologist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. "If cancer were to develop, it could take 10 to 20 years for it to become apparent."

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