Medical Tests & Procedures Archive


Repairing a thoracic aneurysm

A thoracic aortic aneurysm (a weakened area in the wall of the upper section of the aorta) may require surgical repair if it grows too large. Aneurysms in the area called the descending aorta can sometimes be repaired with a less invasive endovascular technique.

Concern about rising calcium score

A calcium score is a good indicator of how much plaque is inside the heart's arteries. Treatments can replace cholesterol in plaque with scar tissue, which contains calcium and produces a higher calcium score, but this stabilized plaque lowers heart attack risk.

The colonoscopy diet

It's a good idea to eat a certain diet before and after a colonoscopy. Eating a low-fiber diet a few days before the procedure helps move foods through the colon quickly, which can make colon prep easier. On the day before the procedure, it's important to consume only clear liquids (such as broth or bouillon, black coffee, plain tea, clear juices, clear soft drinks or sports drinks, Jell-O, and popsicles). After the procedure, it's safe to resume a normal diet. But eating too much fiber too quickly might cause gas, bloating, and discomfort. It might be wisest to restart a normal fiber-rich diet gradually.

New research shows little risk of infection from prostate biopsies

Infections after a prostate biopsy are rare, but they do occur. There are two ways to perform such a biopsy, with the one at higher risk of infection more common in the US. Researchers conducted a trial designed to compare the safety of the two methods.

Do you need to check for narrowed arteries in your neck?

The carotid arteries, which run up the sides of the neck, can become clogged with plaque—a condition called carotid stenosis. But a carotid artery ultrasound to look for this problem is advisable in only a few specific circumstances, mostly in people with signs or symptoms of carotid stenosis. One sign is a distinctive whooshing sound called a bruit that a doctor can hear through a stethoscope placed over the artery. The tests are also routine in people who experience symptoms of a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or ministroke, which usually last only briefly.

Should you order your own Alzheimer's test?

For the first time, consumers can order a blood screening for Alzheimer's disease. The screening looks for two types of brain proteins, one of which is associated with Alzheimer's. Doctors have concerns about the screening: it's not FDA-approved, there's little information about its accuracy, and it can take a few days to speak with a doctor about the results. By comparison, an official Alzheimer's diagnosis involves a comprehensive evaluation of someone's current and past health problems, physical and neurological exams, family history, blood tests to rule out hidden conditions that might be causing memory problems (such as vitamin B12 deficiency), and imaging tests.

Fixing a faulty aortic valve

A nonsurgical approach for replacing a damaged aortic valve, known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), has become very popular in recent years. But it may not make sense for people in their 60s, who are likely to need a second valve replacement later in life. The valves used in TAVR only last about 10 years, on average. In addition, diagnosing and treating coronary artery disease may be more challenging in people who've had TAVR. Also, the surgery to replace a failed TAVR valve is more complicated than regular valve replacement surgery. So people who are likely to need least one traditional valve surgery are better off having the surgery in their 60s rather than in their 70s. A TAVR can be done the second time around.

Biotin supplements

Taking supplements that contain high levels of biotin (vitamin B7) can lead to falsely low or falsely high results on a troponin test, a blood test used to diagnose heart attacks.

Do you need a medical escort?

Some minor medical procedures require patients to bring a medical escort because they involve anesthesia or sedation, which can leave patients groggy or feeling ill afterward. Finding a medical escort can be problematic for older adults who live alone or have no family members or friends who can fill in. Public transportation also won't suffice, since drivers can't accompany customers into their homes. People in need of a medical escort can seek help from community organizations or check with their area's Office on Aging or home health agencies for such services.

Lynch syndrome: Reclaiming power

Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition that predisposes people to colorectal, uterine, ovarian, and other forms of cancer. Genetic testing can pinpoint Lynch syndrome, and genetic counseling is also recommended. People with Lynch syndrome need frequent cancer screenings and should watch for symptoms. Women with Lynch syndrome are also advised to undergo risk-reducing surgery that removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus between ages 35 and 40, unless a woman is planning another pregnancy.

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