Health Highlights: April 20, 201104/20/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Hospital Outpatient Care Pricier Than Doctor's Office Visits:
Only five percent of all ambulatory doctor visits in the United
States in 2008 were to doctors in hospital outpatient departments,
but these types of visits accounted for more than 20 percent of the
$309 billion spent on that type of care, says a federal government
report released Wednesday.
The average cost of a hospital outpatient doctor visit was
$1,275, compared to $199 for a visit to a doctor's office,
according to the latest
News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and
The average cost of a hospital emergency department in which a
patient was seen by a doctor was $922. This type of visit accounted
for only four percent of all ambulatory visits but 14 percent of
the total amount spent on ambulatory doctor care.
Patients who received hospital outpatient care from a doctor
were about seven times more likely to have surgery than patients
seen in a doctor's office and four times more likely than patients
seen by a doctor in a hospital emergency department, the report
In cases where patients didn't have surgery, the average expense
per visit for physician care was 44 higher in the hospital
emergency department than in the outpatient department -- $821 vs.
FDA Approves Cervical Cancer Test
A test to identify women at high risk for cervical cancer has
been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The test can detect two types of the human papillomavirus (HPV)
associated with more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, as
well as 12 other types of HPV that can also cause the disease,
Bloomberg News reported.
FDA approval of the test from Roche Holding AG was based on a
study of more than 47,000 women in the United States.
In 2010, more than 12,000 cases of cervical cancer were
diagnosed in the U.S. and more than 4,000 women died of the
disease, according to the National Cancer Institute,
Rituxan Approved to Treat Blood Vessel Inflammation
The arthritis and cancer drug Rituxan has been approved to treat
two rare disorders that cause blood vessel inflammation, the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.
In combination with steroids called glucocorticoids, Rituxan
(rituximab) can be used to treat patients with Wegener's
granulomatosis (WG) and microscopic polyangiitis (MPA). The
diseases each affect less than 200,000 people in the United
The FDA approval was based on a single clinical trial that
included 197 patients with WG or MPA. Common side effects included
infection, nausea, diarrhea, headache, muscle spasms and
The drug already has FDA approval to treat patients with
rheumatoid arthritis, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and
Policy Shift Will Reduce Medicare Drug Plan Service Cuts
The Obama administration will award quality bonuses to hundreds
of Medicare Advantage plans rated as average, a move that could
prevent service cuts to millions of seniors enrolled in the
The decision will lead to a $6.7 billion infusion into the
popular private insurance plans and could avert service cuts that
would have been a political problem for the president and Democrats
in Congress, the
Associated Press reported.
The quality bonuses will change what would have been averaged
out as a net loss for the Medicare Advantage plans in 2012 into a
small gain, according to the insurance industry.
Plans with average ratings account for more than half of the
approximately 11 million Medicare Advantage enrollees, the
Woman Shows Off New Hand
A 26-year-old American woman who showed off her newly
transplanted right hand Tuesday said she's still getting used to
"I do feel like it's mine. Slowly but surely, every day it becomes more and more mine," Emily Fennell said Tuesday at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported.
She received her new hand March 5 during a 14 1/2-hour operation
at the medical center. It was the first such transplant at the
hospital and the 13th in the United States.
Doctors said Fennell, who lost her hand in a traffic crash,
faces a long rehabilitation process, the
Breath Test for Cancer a Step Closer: Scientists
Researchers say they're a step closer to creating a breath test
that can detect cancer.
Israeli scientists who created an "electronic nose" found that
it was able to identify chemical signals of cancer in the breath of
80 patients with lung or head and neck cancer,
BBC News reported.
The findings appear in the
British Journal of Cancer.
"There's an urgent need to develop new ways to detect head-and-neck cancer because diagnosis of the disease is complicated, requiring specialist examinations," said lead researcher Professor Hossam Haick of the Israel Institute of Technology, BBC News reported.
"We've shown that a simple 'breath test' can spot the patterns of molecules which are found in head-and-neck patients in a small, early study," Haick said. "We now need to test these results in larger studies to find if this could lead to a potential screening method for the disease."
While the findings are encouraging, it will take years of
research to determine if the breath test could be used in the
clinic, Dr. Lesley Walker, of Cancer Research UK, told
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