Health Flash

Health Flash: 3.24.21

state-of-the-art surgery | Dr. Sri Pinnamaneni, an orthopedic surgeon at Signature Orthopedics, is the first physician in St. Louis to use a new computer-guided total shoulder replacement system. ExactechGPS uses 3-D modeling software to allow surgeons to preoperatively plan replacement surgeries, and during the operation, the technology provides live feedback and assessment using trackers, specialized instruments and an inter-operative computer. The system allows for more precise and personalized surgeries, specially designed for patients’ unique anatomies. “I am honored to be the first surgeon to use and implement this technology in the St. Louis area,” Pinnamaneni says. “I look forward to providing this innovative, exciting technology to patients needing shoulder replacement surgery in the local community.”

virus containment
Researchers at the Brown School at Washington University are helping advise local policymakers on how to contain the spread of COVID-19 until the vaccination is able to offer widespread protection. They have collaborated with the Brookings Center on Social Dynamics and Policy for TRACE (Testing Responses through Agent-based Computational Epidemiology), an effort to create a sophisticated model to inform policy responses to the pandemic. Previous simulations produced by the model have focused on national containment efforts, but now the aim is to limit the spread of the virus in St. Louis city through the summer. TRACE researchers conducted 50,000 simulations that represented 1,000 different combinations of containment options. They found existing control measures and vaccination are likely enough to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but new virus variants could necessitate additional policies.

looking ahead
Saint Louis University’s new Advanced HEAlth Data (AHEAD) Institute is partnering with SSM Health to help advance the quality of health care and improve patient outcomes. An important part of the initiative is the development of a virtual data warehouse (VDW) that holds de-identified patient data from more than 5 million individuals. The VDW is expected to be completed in April of next year, and its information will be available to researchers from both organizations who submit data requests and research proposals. Since all data collected will be obfuscated, they will not have access to information identifying specific patients or providers. The AHEAD Institute also is conducting research and projects on a variety of topics, including epidemiology, health disparities, COVID-19 surveillance and chronic prescription opioid use.

opioid overdoses
Opioid misuse continues to be a major issue in the United States, and an estimated 2.4 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder. A common treatment is medication like buprenorphine, which activates opioid receptors. However, there is some debate about the safety of prescribing buprenorphine to patients who also take benzodiazepines, which are stress and anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax, because both drugs depress the central nervous system. Research from Washington University School of Medicine found that buprenorphine can protect from opioid overdose even for people who take benzodiazepines. Looking at more than 23,000 patients being treated for opioid abuse disorder who also had been prescribed anxiety medication, the study found that those who took buprenorphine had 40% less risk of an overdose.


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