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Health bulletin
By Susan Stevens | Daily Herald Columnist

Intensive care units are so noisy and disruptive that patients cannot get the restorative sleep that they need to heal, according to a report.


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Published: 12/16/2007 10:38 PM

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Need to sleep? Stay out of hospitals

Intensive care units are so noisy and disruptive that patients cannot get the restorative sleep that they need to heal, according to a report.

But if nurses and technicians would simply adjust their schedules and avoid constantly waking patients through the night, patients may do better, the team at the University of Texas Southwestern found.

"We haven't recognized the importance of prescribing sleep," said Dr. Randall Friese, who led the study published in the Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection and Critical Care.

Nurses, doctors and technicians argue that their schedules require regular checks on patients. But Friese said this may be interfering with the goal of getting the patient better.

Experts know that nightly sleep occurs in 90-minute cycles, and people must go through the entire cycle to get to deep sleep, which is critical to health.

Friese monitored the sleep patterns of 16 patients in the ICU who had suffered traumatic injuries or had abdominal surgery. Although it appeared the patients were getting enough sleep, Friese said their brain wave patterns showed their sleep was fragmented and superficial.

Blood pressure tied to dementia

Elderly people with high blood pressure may be more likely to develop thinking and learning problems that can lead to dementia, researchers said.

Hypertension was linked to one of two types of mild cognitive impairment, a condition that can foreshadow the development of dementia, but not the type strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease, according to the study published in the journal Archives of Neurology.

Umbilical cord blood can help metabolic disorders

Umbilical cord blood transplants, even from unrelated donors, can help save the lives of babies born with certain inherited metabolic disorders, U.S. researchers reported.

Usually, bone marrow transplants are the only option for such infants, who can die from organ failure and early death. Bone marrow transplants can be difficult to get and donors are rare.

Umbilical cord blood, however, can be donated with every birth and also contains immature cells known as stem cells that can restore missing or damaged cells in a patient.

Dr. Vinod Prasad and colleagues at Duke University in North Carolina studied 159 children with inherited metabolic disorders who received transplants of cord blood from unrelated newborns at Duke between 1995 and 2007.

Speaking to an American Society of Hematology meeting in Atlanta, Prasad said more than 88 percent of patients who got cord blood transplants before they began to show too many symptoms of illness lived for at least a year. Cord blood is more readily available than bone marrow, and there was a decreased risk of complications, Prasad said.

Meat raises lung cancer risk, too

People who eat a lot of red meat and processed meats have a higher risk of several types of cancer, including lung cancer and colorectal cancer, U.S. researchers reported.

The work is the first big study to show a link between meat and lung cancer. It also shows that people who eat a lot of meat have a higher risk of liver and esophageal cancer and that men raise their risk of pancreatic cancer by eating red meat.

"A decrease in the consumption of red and processed meat could reduce the incidence of cancer at multiple sites," Dr. Amanda Cross and colleagues at the U.S. National Cancer Institute wrote in their report, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

The researchers studied 500,000 people aged 50 to 71 who took part in a diet and health study. After eight years, 53,396 cases of cancer were diagnosed.

"Statistically significant elevated risks (ranging from 20 percent to 60 percent) were evident for esophageal, colorectal, liver, and lung cancer, comparing individuals in the highest with those in the lowest quintile of red meat intake," the researchers wrote.

Red meat was defined as all types of beef, pork and lamb. Processed meat included bacon, red meat sausage, poultry sausage, luncheon meats, cold cuts, ham and most types of hot dogs including turkey dogs.

Serious ski injuries are increasing

The number of skiers and snowboarders suffering head and spinal-cord injuries is on the rise internationally -- probably the result of greater risk-taking on the slopes, according to researchers.

In a review of data on these injuries from 10 countries, Canadian researchers found increasing rates of brain and spinal-cord injuries among skiers and snowboarders between 1990 and 2004.