Monthly Archives: December 2011
In our last post, we discussed how healthcare providers are utilizing refurbished medical equipment and even used surgery equipment to keep their costs lower, and help them survive financially in these tough economic times. I’d like to continue on with that a bit, as some seem to have taken an interest, and try to answer some of your questions. So, let’s consider this a used medical equipment FAQ, shall we?
Question #1: Where do doctors and hospitals find refurbished medical equipment?
Answer: Unlike you or I, healthcare professionals can’t just search Craigslist or eBay to find what they need. Reputable medical equipment providers have websites and catalogs listing their current offers and best prices. So, in a way, doctors and hospital administrators CAN find what they’re looking for on the Internet. They just have to go where the goods are. Used medical equipment providers give them a place to start comparison shopping.
Question #2: What types of refurbished medical equipment are typically available?
Answer: That depends on where they shop. However, some general types of equipment include EKG machines, patient monitors, diagnostic tools like stress monitors (the dreaded treadmill test) and ultrasounds, and defibrillators. Used surgery equipment is another frequently offered type of refurbished medical equipment. Surgical tables, surgical lighting systems, anesthesia machines, and even sterilizers for smaller bits of equipment like scalpels and clamps are all bought and sold on the used surgery equipment market.
Question #3: How safe and reliable is refurbished medical equipment?
Answer: All used and refurbished medical equipment, including used surgery equipment, is meticulously tested and certified by the medical equipment suppliers. Most also offer references to new customers, providing them with assurances from satisfied customers. And all offer some sort of warranty covering parts and repairs, should something go wrong after the equipment has been purchased. Most refurbished medical equipment comes with all of its manuals and start up supplies, as well. Rest assured that the refurbished medical equipment and used surgery equipment in use by your healthcare professionals is top-notch, best quality.
Question #4: Just how much money is my doctor, hospital or clinic able to save through using refurbished medical equipment?
Answer: Well, let’s just take a look at one product–a patient monitor. We’ll look at a model that monitors ECG (your heart rate and rhythm), oximetry (how much oxygen is in your blood), blood pressure, body temperature, and respiration rate. (Some models monitor fewer vital signs, or different ones, so by looking at one specific TYPE of monitor, we’ll make our price comparison more accurate.) A new one will cost your hospital roughly $5000 to $6000. The cost of a refurbished model monitoring for exactly the same signs is in the neighborhood of $3000. That’s quite a bit of savings!
By buying their used surgery equipment and other refurbished medical equipment from reputable medical equipment suppliers, healthcare professionals can save thousands, if not tens or even hundreds of thousands on the equipment so vital to providing us with the best possible care. No question about it!
Everybody’s feeling the crunch these days, even your physician. Many small local hospitals are running at the bare minimum and many are just breaking even financially. Part of the problem is the government regulations placed on how much a patient can be charged. Another problem is the rise in folks relying on government health insurance programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Lastly, the number of people without health insurance due to unemployment and underemployment leaves many unable to pay their bills, or forces them to set up monthly payment plans of only a fraction of the cost.
Doctors and hospitals, therapists, and rehab centers all still function as before–providing their patients with the best care possible. Services haven’t been cut, though office hours and staff may have been. And the all-important medical equipment is still in place, providing diagnostic and treatment services as before. But health care providers have found several ways to cut costs. We buy used cars, secondhand books and jewelry. For doctors from New York to San Diego, medical equipment costs are kept low by buying used, too.
Now you may balk at the thought of your physician or hospital using secondhand medical equipment. But used medical equipment suppliers have found a good trade amongst small facilities and one-man offices. If last year’s model still does the job of this year’s, but costs half the price, why not purchase one if that’s what is needed? Why not turn someone else’s good fortune (they, after all, could afford to buy a new model) into your good fortune? Another added benefit is that if a piece of equipment is being replaced by a used model exactly like the first, staff doesn’t have to be retrained or “brought up to speed” and operations can go on without a hitch or hiccup or lengthy period of down time. Used medical equipment actually may give some small facilities the opportunity to offer services they couldn’t before due to the prohibitive cost of many new items. This allows them to build their client base and do something astounding given the economy–GROW!
Another thing concerning economy-minded physicians from New York to San Diego is medical equipment repair. When that fancy gadget no longer does what it is supposed to be doing, they can’t afford to replace it with a new and improved model. Just like us, they have to fix it or do without. And since many can’t simply do without, medical equipment repairs are on the rise. It just makes better sense to have the machine repaired for a fraction of the cost of a new one than to buy that new model. Again, repairing faulty or broken equipment saves on staff training and downtime. As soon as the equipment is back on its feet, the staff can get back to services as usual.
Times may be tough, but our health care professionals still have to care for us when we become ill or injured. If utilizing used medical equipment allows them to do so without added cost to me, why should I let it concern me? They’re doing their job, just as I do mine. And together, we’ll all live to see better times ahead.
Homework. Good grades. High scores on standardized tests. High scores on Sonic the Hedgehog. High scores with the cute guy or girl in class. Our kids have enough to worry about besides their health and physical well-being. It’s tough enough being a kid today without the worries and stress of being overweight and out of shape. Bullies like to pick on the “odd ones”–those whose physical appearance makes them different from the rest of the crew.
As parents and teachers, it should then fall on us to see that our kids receive the exercise and physical fitness education that they need. What they get at home–after school and on weekends–is good, but it probably isn’t enough. That’s where our schools need to step up with good, effective, and fun physical education programs. A well-rounded physical education curriculum should include enough opportunities for students that they can find at least one form of physical activity that they can both enjoy and engage in outside of school.
Physical education lesson plans need to reflect the needs of the students, and not just the interests of the teacher or coach, or the standards set by some administrator who hasn’t seen the inside of a gym or the outside of a playground for years.
Too many physical education programs focus on sports. I’ve said this before, but just because the physical education curriculum is left up to the coach or the athletic department of the school is no excuse for every phys. ed class to turn into a game of something.
Basketball and kickball, volleyball and dodge ball all have their place. They are fun, active, easy-to-do games that can involve a lot of kids, so no one is left sitting out. But they can also become skill-focused. When the program goes from physical education to basketball education, or volleyball education, the physical education gets tossed by the wayside. And so do the students who can’t or won’t develop any level of skill in that sport. Teaching the rules, teaching how to play a game is one thing. Expecting every student to turn into a star power forward or ace server is another.
Students need to know that there are individual activities that are just as enjoyable and doable as team sports. Calisthenics, weight training, Pilates, yoga, aerobics, walking, running, dance, and many more can find a home in physical education programs and suit many students’ needs and desires better than constant focus on team sports.
Physical education lesson plans need to reflect the growing need for equipment-less activities, too. Not everyone has access to a basketball and hoop, even if there are free courts at the park. Not every child has jump ropes or space to use them. Teaching children ways to engage in pleasant physical activities without the use of anything more than their bodies should be a priority. And we can no longer assume children have access to wide open play spaces, either. As more and more families are forced to downsize their homes and living spaces, gardens and driveways become smaller or non-existent, while parks and playgrounds may become farther and farther away.
Our children deserve better than what they are getting. They deserve physical education programs that actually build their physical well-being and help them develop physical fitness habits that will carry them through life, not just till the end of the term.
Oxidative stress is stress placed on our cells through the process of breathing. (Yep, you read that right. Breathing is bad for you. Really. Keep reading and you’ll find out why and how.) As we breathe in, we take in free oxygen radicals with every breath. These lone ranger, unstable oxygen molecules cause damage and even death to the cells in our bodies. The body does have ways of fighting these free radicals–antioxidants like superoxide dismutase and catalase–and we can help our bodies by increasing the amount of antioxidants we take in through the foods we eat as well. But oxidative stress is a part of the life of every oxygen breathing organism, as the reactive oxygen species (that’s the fancy name for those rogue free radicals) are actually formed as part of the oxygen using processes performed by our cells. However, we add to those naturally occurring ROS by exposing ourselves to cigarette smoke and air pollutants from car and industrial emissions, by consuming alcohol in excess, and through bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Two forms of oxidative stress common to many people are the formation of 8-ohdg and advanced glycation endproducts.
8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine is formed within the DNA of the cell when it is attacked by ROS. When the DNA repairs itself, the 8-ohdg is released into the urine. 8-ohdg is commonly found in patients with certain kinds of cancer. It can also be a risk factor for hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and diabetes, too. The 8-ohdg doesn’t necessarily cause these conditions, but it is present in patients who have, or may develop, these conditions. Therefore, it is nothing to sneeze at or take lightly.
Doctors can perform bio-chemical tests known as cell-based assays and discover whether 8-ohdg is present in a patient’s urine. That’s the good thing about 8-ohdg–it’s easy to find if you know what to look for. And since steps can be taken to prevent atherosclerosis and diabetes, catching the presence of 8-ohdg early on is a good thing. Also, knowing that 8-ohdg is both a risk factor for and an indicator of certain cancers can help a doctor determine what is wrong with a patient.
Another form of oxidative stress is the formation of advanced glycation endproducts. Glycation occurs when sugars such as fructose bind with proteins. This in itself wouldn’t be a bad thing, but when these sugar-protein combinations are ingested, the body can only deal with about 30% of them. The rest are left to interfere with molecular functioning–causing our cells to misfire, backfire, or burn out, if you will, never to function properly again. Advanced glycation endproducts are found in dark colored sodas, barbecued meats, donuts, many French fries and onion rings, cakes and other “taste so good but are bad for you” foods. These advanced glycation endproducts have been proven to cause diabetes and other “age related” chronic illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, deafness, retinal damage, and neuropathy (nerve damage) by preventing the cells from properly functioning.
Oxidative stress attacks our bodies with every breath we take. We don’t need to add to it with smoking, drinking, or eating all the wrong foods, no matter how good they taste. Your cells will thank you, and the body that is made up of them will last you much longer, too.
We’ve discussed a bit about cellular health and function here on the blog, and I’ve mentioned in other posts about how doctors can test for things like superoxide dismutase, catalase and other enzymes and proteins. I’ve never really told you though exactly HOW they test for such proteins. As our metabolism takes care of all its responsibilities–basically the running of our bodies–certain proteins and enzymes are produced within the cells. Doctors can now perform cell-based assays(tests) that evaluate or count the amount of these proteins within the body. An overabundance or a shortage of whichever protein or enzyme they are testing for can help them to determine what, if anything, might be affecting our health. A lack of superoxide dismutase, for example, can point to Amyotrophic Lateral Scerlosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease.) Cell assays can also tell a doctor if a certain drug or other medical treatment has had any effect on the condition being treated. A superoxide dismutase assay, for example, performed after the patient has been treated with an SOD supplement for a length of time can determine just how much effect the antioxidant supplement is having on the patient and how well he or she is responding to it.
Cell assays work through the magic of biochemistry. As our cells perform their everyday duties, they create certain proteins and enzymes. If one or more of these enzymes and proteins is out of whack, the cell’s function is compromised and it is no longer a healthy, normally active cell.
Certain proteins and enzymes can cause abnormal cell growth, which can lead to the formation of tumors and cancers. Certain other proteins and enzymes, such as the antioxidants superoxide dismutase and catalse, are essential for continued cell growth and good health. A lack of these can lead to cell decline and even to cell death.
Cell-based assays work in a variety of ways, all designed to make the cells, or the proteins and enzymes within them, more visible so that they can be counted or assayed. Radius cell assays, for example, work because a special gel inserted into the well of the test tube keeps the cells apart. Once the gel is removed, the cells are then free to move in and close the gap. At some point, either while apart or as they move back together, the assay can be performed. A superoxide dismutase assay uses a chromagen dye which is reduced by the superoxide present in the sample of serum or urine. The amount of dye dissipated by the superoxide dismutase tells the doctor just how much of the antioxidant is present in the patient’s system through this representative sample.
Cell-based assays have been developed over the last 20 years or so as a way to take some of the guess work out of medicine. No longer does a doctor have to wonder just how effective her or his treatments are. In many cases, s/he no longer has to wait for fuller or more specific symptoms to appear. Cell assays can pinpoint the root of the problem at its point of origin within our very cells.
We hold our kids hands as we walk across busy intersections. We put “safety” catches on doors and windows to prevent them from getting hurt. We make sure they wear their seat belts in the car and their bike helmets when they go out for a ride. Yet, when it comes to keeping safe from sexual abuse, we often simply leave that up to them. We teach them to say “No,” we teach them about “good touches” and “bad touches” and then let it go at that. And sadly, that’s not enough. Child abuse lawyers can tell you that. Sexual abuse lawyers make their livings off of our shortcomings. And the children who depend on us? They suffer the most for it. So what can we do? Here’s some tips for increasing our children’s safety from sexual predators:
1.) Be aware. One out of every 4 girls and 1 out every 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Sexual abuse is real; its victims are in every neighborhood, every classroom, every congregation. A whopping 70% of ALL reported sexual assaults are perpetrated against children 17 or younger. One out of 5 children are sexually solicited over the Internet. We can’t just sit back and say, “It can’t happen to my child” or “This is a nice neighborhood. Nothing like that would ever happen here.” Know the facts.
2.) Be wary. As the Catholic Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Boy Scouts and Penn State have all discovered, you can’t really trust anyone when it comes to the safety of children. Children are taught to mind their elders–teachers, coaches, clergy–and the sexual predators use this to their advantage. Mindful children are much easier to abuse, much easier to trust with silence of that abuse. The Seventh Day Adventist sexual abuse lawyers, the Boy Scout abuse attorneys, the victimized adults who don’t come forward for years–they’ll tell you that abusive authority figures make life a living hell, all the while posing as saintly saviors and kindly mentors. Sexual predators go out of their way to appear “normal” while gravitating toward settings that allow them contact with potential victims. Nearly 90% of all child sexual abuse victims are abused by people known and trusted by them and their families.
3.) Be preventative. You wouldn’t let your child swim in shark infested waters, so why let them engage in situations where abuse is possible? Eliminating one-child/one-adult scenarios as much as possible is the best possible thing to ensure your child’s safety. When situations have to occur, take steps to prevent abuse. Drop in unexpectedly. Ask specific questions about planned activities and then monitor just how well these plans are followed by talking to your child after. Did they go to the mall as planned? What did they order at the restaurant?
4.) Be direct and insistent. Insist that organizations and groups have sexual abuse policies and that they follow them. Insist that sexual abuse prevention training programs be implemented. Be direct with any adult with whom your child may be spending one-on-one time that you and your child are educated in sexual abuse prevention. The predators will back off, fade away. The good guys will understand.
Winter has set in from New England to the Rockies, and while a lot of folks stay inside as much as possible during the cold and snowy months, many, either by choice or by necessity, are still out and about. And that means that folks are suffering injuries, many of them made more common by the winter’s snow and ice. The winter months also bring with them a host of illnesses, and often exascerbate existing poor health conditions, leading to more visits to the doctor’s office or clinic and more frequent and longer hospital stays. All of this winter injury and illness activity can lead to the potential for something to go wrong. And from Colorado toNew Hampshire, medical malpractice attorneys are waiting to help when the unforeseen and unfortunate occurs.
The winter’s snow and ice can cause slips and falls. Whether it be a poorly cleared sidewalk in Tennessee, or an icy parking lot in New Hampshire, slip and fall injuries are more commonplace in the winter than any other time of the year. Many times, we’re only slightly embarrassed, or come home with a slight bruise and a broken egg or two in our shopping bag. But when the worst happens and bones are broken or muscles torn, you may have a right to sue the owner of the property for failing to provide for your safety. You may be able to receive all or part of your medical expenses and lost wages if your injuries cause you to miss work. Certain circumstances will have to be met, though. You can’t reasonably expect a shopkeeper to keep the sidewalk clear in the middle of a blizzard, or an ice storm. And absentee landlords may be depending on someone else to see that the snow is kept clear. So, who you can sue, for how much, and your chances of winning the case are not guaranteed by any means.
The winter weather can have ill effects on pets as well as people. The cold can make dogs and cats more afraid, more aggressive and more dangerous. Dog bite incidents in some areas are more prevalent in the cold weather months than they are in the warmer months of spring and summer. From Montana to New Hampshire, dog bite attorneys specialize in taking on the cases of the innocent pedestrian injured at the hands of cold and hungry Fidos who might otherwise be harmless. If you can’t receive any satisfaction from the dog’s owner to help with medical bills from their dog’s gnawing on your arm or ankle, these lawyers can help you put together a case that might just meet your needs.
No one likes to think that a lawsuit is the way to go. Attorneys get a bad reputation from them. Your neighbors and fellow citizens often live in fear of them. But when the cold and snow sets in, and it brings with it illness or injury that could have been prevented, you may have no other choice. Contact a good attorney and see how they can help you make it back to warm and comfortable.
We need to breathe to live, right? All that oxygen needed by our bodies is supposed to be good for us, supposed to keep us alive. Yet every time we inhale, we take in free oxygen radicals–unstable bits of oxygen that actually do our bodies harm. These free radicals age us, damage our cells, and can cause everything from wrinkles to arthritis to some cancers. Because these free oxygen atoms begin attacking our bodies from the very first breath we take, our bodies have come up with several clever ways to fight them off. The body’s best defense is an enzyme called superoxide dismutase. It takes those nasty free radical oxygen atoms and turns them into oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. Our bodies then simply flush the hydrogen peroxide away with the rest of the “waste.” Superoxide dismutase rarely works alone. It prefers to team up with another enzyme, catalase. Combine superoxide dismutase, catalase, and other antioxidants, and you’ve got a recipe for optimal health.
Besides helping your cells stave off attacks from oxygen free radicals, all this antioxidant activity has been shown to have other beneficial effects on our bodies. Doctors and scientists are only beginning to understand just how superoxide dismutase works, but they do know that there is a decrease in superoxide dismutase and an increase in free radicals as our bodies age. Superoxide dismutase, catalase, and other antioxidants are believed to have a hand in how healthy we stay as we grow older. Antioxidant activity then, or the lack of it, can determine just how well we do or do not age.
Superoxide dismutase has been used successfully to treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, myofibrosis, and some joint and muscle injuries. Superoxide dismutase has also been shown to reduce the side effects of cancer-fighting drugs, to aid in the treatment of burns and smoke inhalation, and to ease some prostate problems. In its topical form, it can help fight wrinkles, heal scars and skin wounds, and lighten areas affected by hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin).
A lack of superoxide dismutase in some patients can lead to contracting ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This disease is fatal, causing deterioration of motor nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. Initial studies indicate that supplements of superoxide dismutase, catalase, and other antioxidants in the form of vitamin E may indeed slow down the progress of this dreadful disease.
Superoxide dismutase can be found naturally, too, in foods such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other green plants. Since superoxide dismutase rarely works alone, making sure you take in plenty of vitamin C and copper to aid in the production of catalase and other antioxidants will guarantee you’re doing all you can in the fight against free radicals.
We can’t stop breathing. We have to breathe to live. But knowing you are doing the best you can to provide your body with all the antioxidant activity it can handle can help you breathe a little easier.
Little Miss Muffet, as we all know from the nursery rhyme, was frightened by the spider who sat down beside her. How many of you ladies out there have been frightened by the spider veins that sit down with you–in your legs? Fear no more, ladies. There’s a new, high-tech spider vein treatment available. And goodness knows, for everyone from you and I, to famous dermatologist Dr. Obagi, skin healthis high on our list. If we don’t look good, we have a hard time feeling good. If we can’t go out in a dress or shorts for fear of the spiders showing in our legs, we’re no better than Miss Muffet. Don’t let varicose veins stop you from strutting your stuff out of fear of spider veins. Zap them away with a skin laser treatment.
All the blood vessels in our bodies contain one-way valves that prevent the blood from flowing the wrong way. In the legs, muscles also pump against the veins to help the blood return to the heart against the downward flow of gravity. Over time, as we age, the little valves in the veins of the legs often wear out and allow blood to flow backward. This extra blood causes the veins to enlarge and become visible. These enlarged veins are called varicose veins. When the small veins close to the skin become varicose, they appear as a spider web fanning out across the skin of the leg. Hence the term spider veins. (Coincidentally, the smaller veins tend to become varicose first, as they are most susceptible to the added pressure from the leg muscles and the effects of fighting gravity all those years.) Besides being unsightly, varicose or spider veins can become itchy and even painful, especially when standing or walking. Scratching them can cause ulcers to form, as the wound is slow is to heal. So, spider vein treatment may seem like a vain and frivolous thing until you really think about what can happen if left untreated.
Traditionally, exercise, compression stockings and elevating the feet were the typical spider vein treatments. Extreme cases were treated with vein stripping surgery, a painful operation with a lengthy recovery time of inactivity. Today, happily, a noninvasive and painless treatment exists in the form of skin laser treatments. A laser is used to burn the vein closed, so no more blood can flow. The spider veins simply dry up and are usually reabsorbed by the body. No more unsightly spidery veins, no more itching or painful standing. Laser skin treatments are performed over a period of 6 to 12 weeks, and the patient can walk out of the doctor’s office after each treatment. There’s no need for anesthesia, bandages, or recovery time. Your spider veins will take some time to completely disappear, so there’s no dramatic instantaneous results with skin laser treatment, but compared to traditional methods, this form of spider vein treatment is as soft as Miss Muffet’s tuffet!
An acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous form of brain tumor. In most cases, it isn’t that bad of a diagnosis. (Now, I know what you’re thinking–brain tumor and “not that bad of a thing” in the same sentence doesn’t sound quite right, does it? Bear with me, dear reader, and I’ll explain.) Acoustic neuroma form on the nerve that leads from the ear to the brain. They tend to stay quite small, they don’t spread to other parts of the body, and if they do grow, or grow in the wrong place and need to be removed, a simple brain tumor operation known as gamma knife surgery can take care of them.
Since acoustic neuroma do grow on the auditory nerve, they can often be hard to diagnose at first. Many of their symptoms–loss of hearing, dizziness, ringing in the ears, headache–are similar to other inner ear conditions as simple as inner ear infections. It may take a hearing test, or even a radiological scan to determine whether or not an acoustic neuroma is even present.
The slow growing nature of most acoustic neuroma mean that many times no treatment will be necessary, at least not at first. Doctors often simply monitor both the neuroma and the symptoms to see if either worsens. If the patient’s symptoms can be tolerated, then nothing needs to be done. If the patient’s symptoms are severe, such as numbness or paralysis of the face or neck, or the tumor grows to such a size as to put pressure on the brain and thus become life-threatening, a brain tumor operation may need to be performed.
There are several types of operations for acoustic neuroma. The least invasive and most effective is gamma knife surgery. A gamma knife isn’t a knife at all, but rather a highly concentrated dose of radiation delivered right to the site of the acoustic neuroma. So, there’s no real surgery–no blood, no shaving of the head, no opening of the skull as in other brain tumor operations. The patient is fitted with a specially designed head gear, the pinpoint gamma ray radiation is delivered and the “operation” is over. Many patients don’t even need any form of sedation, let alone the need for anesthesia. And because there’s no invasiveness, no anesthesia, no wound, the patient can return to their normal activities almost immediately. Recovery time is almost as non-existent as the acoustic neuroma soon will be!
How does it work? The gamma knife surgery delivers powerful gamma radiation (200 or so beams of it) directly to the site of the neuroma. The surrounding tissue is left untouched and unharmed. The radiation stops the growth of the tumor. In some cases the tumor even shrinks. Eventually, the tumor and its blood vessels wither and shrink. Once this occurs, hearing is restored, headaches cease and balance is back to normal. If numbness or paralysis of facial or neck tissue has occurred, it, too is relieved. The patient is back to normal after typically only one treatment of gamma knife surgery.
So you can see how “not so bad” and “brain tumor” can go hand-in-hand in the same sentence. An acoustic neuroma is nothing to fear. And neither is gamma knife surgery.