April 2005 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

Can bariatric surgery alone lead to that svelte look? Slim chance.

As more Americans opt for bariatric surgery to help achieve massive weight loss, the number of follow-up plastic surgery procedures to rid patients of excess skin left after the initial surgery also is increasing.

Body contouring surgeries needed for patients to attain optimal weights and body shapes after bariatric surgery usually number at least two, and often three or four. These procedures are considered major, invasive surgeries - unlike the image often painted by reality television, says Dr. Jeffrey Kenkel, vice chairman of plastic surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"I don't think people always realize that they will have all that extra skin left," he says. "They've lost the weight, but they still look in the mirror and feel like they're fat.

"Patients who are obese and considering bariatric surgery need to be aware that this is not a one-operation cure-all, but typically involves three to five years of multiple procedures," explains Dr. Kenkel, who recently served as chair of the first educational seminar for plastic surgeons on the topic. "The first stage is to lose weight. The second is to make the patient look as good as they feel."

Media Contact: Donna Steph Hansard

Prenatal vitamins not so benign when small children find them

Many expectant mothers don't always think to keep their prenatal vitamins under lock and key or at least out of reach of their other young children. But doing so just might save their toddler's life, says Dr. Kathleen Delaney, vice chairman of emergency medicine and professor of surgery and internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"I suspect that many people think that they are benign - just vitamins," Dr. Delaney says. "But they are extremely high in iron, which can be toxic to small children."

If you suspect your toddler has swallowed prenatal vitamins, immediately head to the nearest emergency department. Of course, all medicines, vitamins or supplements - as well as cleaners, poisons and other potentially harmful household products - should be kept secured and out of reach of young children.

Media Contact: Kara Lenocker

Bone density scans can help slow progression of osteoporosis

Women should start undergoing bone density scans in their early 40s.

"Bone scans alert us to women who might be prone to osteoporosis and we can prescribe medications that slow down the progression of the disease," says Dr. Kimberly Mezera, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery.

Osteoporosis is a gradual weakening of bones that can lead to fragility and make women susceptible to fractures. When women are in their 50s, all should have at least one baseline scan. Patients typically lie down for a bone density scan, which is similar to having an X-ray taken.

Women who have a strong family history of osteoporosis and women who are post-menopausal should be particularly vigilant about getting regular bone-density scans so that any weakening in the bones can be diagnosed early and treated, Dr. Mezera says.

Media Contact:  Kara Lenocker


Recognizing heart attack symptoms early and calling 9-1-1 increases survival rate

Each year, more than a million people suffer a heart attack in the United States.

The chances of surviving such an event rely heavily on how soon you recognize the symptoms and get to a hospital for treatment, says James M. Atkins, professor of internal medicine-cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"Common symptoms range from pain or tightness in the chest lasting a few minutes, to radiating pain that travels down you arm or into your jaw," Dr. Atkins says. "Our strong recommendation is to call 9-1-1."

He stresses against driving yourself, or having someone else drive you to a hospital. "Those who call 9-1-1 and are transported by ambulance to a hospital have a much higher survival rate in cases of heart attacks than those who don't," he says.

Patients who receive treatment within 70 minutes of the onset of a heart attack have a mortality rate of less than 1.7 percent, says Dr. Atkins. 
 
Media Contact: Katherine Morales

Maintaining proper weight can prevent gallstones

Anyone who's ever experienced a gallstone knows about the excruciating pain associated with the condition, whether the stone is as tiny as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder may produce a single stone or many smaller ones, even several thousand.

More than 20 million Americans have gallstones, and approximately one million new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Unfortunately, no consensus exists on whether diet affects gallstone formation. It is clear, though, that obesity increases disease risk in all populations, says Dr. Jay Horton, associate professor of internal medicine in the division of digestive and liver diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"An increase in total energy intake is associated with gallstone formation," says Dr. Horton. "And, of the specific components of a diet, consumption of refined sugars appears to increase the risk for gallstone disease."

In addition, research indicates a higher chance of gallstones in people consuming significant amounts of saturated fat, says Dr. Horton. Saturated fat is found in fatty cuts of meat, poultry with the skin, whole-milk dairy products, and tropical oils like coconut, palm kernel and palm.

Media Contact: Scott Maier

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