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Health Flash: 12.16.20

opioid abuse
Researchers at Saint Louis University have made a troubling discovery about opioid prescriptions. They found that non-cancer patients with a high risk for opioid misuse were as likely to be prescribed medication with high abuse potential as those not at risk. This is in spite of new prescribing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released in 2016. The study looked at data from 18 months before and after the guidance was issued. Among patients that met study guidelines, 141,219 prescriptions were issued for Schedule II opioids like codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone before and 138,216 after.

care at home
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in St. Louis, Mercy is getting creative with care. Using its virtual resources, it has launched Mercy COVID Care @ Home, a remote program for patients with mild symptoms. The 24-hour services include real-time monitoring, oxygen saturation measurements, oxygen flow adjustments, and additional evaluations and interventions. “We’re able to take our five years of experience in providing virtual, in-home care and translate it into caring for COVID-19 patients,” says Dr. Gavin Helton, Mercy Virtual president. “We hope it will make them more comfortable and still connected to care, while lightening the load on hospital caregivers and in-patient resources.”

a joint effort
Osteoarthritis affects more than 32 million people in the United States. A new study from Washington University School of Medicine may have discovered a new course of treatment. In mouse models, knocking out the gene FoxO1 led to the animals developing osteoarthritis, but when the molecule was increased in those developing the disease, they had less cartilage damage. Researchers believe this is because of a process called autophagy, which is how the body clears out damaged tissue. It was enhanced in mice with increased levels of FoxO1. More research is needed to determine if the gene will similarly protect cartilage in humans.

heart hope 
St. Luke’s Hospital is making advances in cardiovascular health with a new heart implant. It’s the first health care network in St. Louis to use the WATCHMAN FLX device. The permanent implant is catheter-based and nonsurgically delivered. It is designed to close the left atrial appendage to reduce risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can cause blood to pool and form clots. The device’s design enables physicians to treat more patients as it can be safely and effectively implanted in individuals with more challenging anatomies.

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