It is well known that doing exercise regularly can prevent cardiovascular diseases, but now researchers from the University of Pittsburg have shown that it can prevent Alzheimer’s. A study including 299 patients have shown that those who walked at least 6 miles/week regularly over a period of 9 years had a much lower Alzheimer’s incidence. According to the authors: “In short, walking greater distances was associated with greater [gray-matter] volume in specific regions, and greater [gray-matter] volume was associated with a lower risk for experiencing cognitive impairment in later years.” This research has been published at Neurology, Vol. 75:15, pp. 1415-1422.

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Back pain is very common among the adult (and young) population. However, it is not always easy to diagnose the source of the pain. Currently, patients with lower back pain must undergo an invasive procedure known as provocative discography to help determine where the pain comes from. A die is injected into the disk via a needle until the patient reaches his or her pain threshold. Based on the level of pain expressed by the patient, the physician forms the diagnosis.
Nocimed (a Californian-based company) is currently testing Nociscan, a software that combines an MR spectroscopy sequence and postprocessing to identify chemical biomarkers of painful disks (degenerative disk disease MR – DDD MR).
There are two metabolites associated with painful disks: lactate and proteoglycan:
– Lactic acids build up in painful disks (the same phenomenon that makes muscle hurt).
– Proteoglycan holds water in the disks. A normal disk has a high content of water and proteoglycan. However, disk degeneration involves dehydration and proteoglycan breaks down. This also prevents nerve in-growth, creating a permissive environment for innervation of nociceptors [pain reporting nerves] that has been observed in the inner nuclei of degenerative painful disks (not found in healthy disks). In general, nocireceptive nerves and acidity means pain.
This technology is not yet commercially available. A two-year study has shown very good results and no false positives, but further investigation is still necessary.
Nevertheless, this new technology represents a step forward to diagnose lower back pain in a more efficient, non-invasive manner.
For more information, refer to:
– Keshari KR, Lotz JC, Link TM, et al. Lactic acid and proteoglycans as metabolic markers for discogenic back pain. Spine. 2008;33(3):312-317. PMID: 18303465
– Carragee EJ, Don AS, Hurwitz EL, et al. 2009 ISSLS Prize Winner: Does discography cause accelerated progression of degeneration changes in the lumbar disc: a ten-year matched cohort study. Spine. 2009;34(21):2338-2345. PMID: 19755936
– O’Neill C, Kurgansky M, Kaiser J, Lau W. Accuracy of MRI for diagnosis of discogenic pain. Pain Physician. 2008;11(3):311-326. PMID: 18523502
– Serena S et al. Modified Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Diagnosis of Painful and Non-Painful Lumbar Intervertebral Discs :Abstract

Having your patients hold their breath properly during a MR or CT scan is always a challenge, especially when your patients are infants. Mueller et al. have come up with a simple volume-monitored (VM) method for performing reproducible, motion-free full inspiratory and end expiratory chest CT examinations in children. They tested the method on
fifty-two children with cystic fibrosis (mean age 8.8 ± 2.2 years). They underwent pulmonary function tests and inspiratory and expiratory VM-CT scans (1.25-mm slices, 80–120 kVp, 16–40 mAs) according to an IRB-approved protocol. The VM-CT technique utilizes instruction from a respiratory therapist, a portable spirometer and real-time documentation of lung volume on a computer. CT image quality was evaluated for achievement of targeted lung-volume levels and for respiratory motion. Overall, 94% of scans were performed at optimal volumes without respiratory motion. This method is applicable to children older than 4 years-old.
A drawback of the method, though, is the fact that the respiratory therapist has to stay in the room while the scan is being performed, with all the risks of radiation.

For more information you can read the whole article, published online in Pediatric Radiology (May 28, 2010): Volume-monitored chest CT: a simplified method for obtaining motion-free images near full inspiratory and end expiratory lung volumes

On January, the 8th, an article appeared in Diagnostic Imaging, which analyzes the safety issues concerning whole-body airport scanners. Since the attempted attack inside an airplane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit last December, most airports are planning to install whole-body scanners to scan passengers. However, not much is really known about the health risks.
You can read more about the research conducted so far, in the following two articles:
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/CancerPreventionAndTreatment/experts-radiation-fears-full-body-scans-unfounded/story?id=9476542&page=1
http://arxiv.org/abs/0910.5294

In the European Union, mortality rates for all cancers fell by 10% in men and 8% in women. Declines were more significant throughout Europe in populations ages 35 to 44, at 25% for men and 20% for women, according to a report published online in the Annals of Oncology (November 30, 2009).
The researchers attributed adoption of standard therapeutic protocols to reducing mortality from Hodgkin’s lymphomas, leukemias, and testicular cancers. They also believe that advancements in integrated treatments have reduced breast, colorectal, ovarian, and prostate cancer mortality.

Stroke imaging by CT perfusion has exposed more than 200 patients to radiation poisoning in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles only. But this is just an example of a problem emerging in many medical centers. This has led the FDA authorities to issue a set of preemptive recommendations for the use of CT perfusion. The rapid developments of CT imaging in the last couple of years has led to a significant increase in CT scans, sometimes without taking into account the risks associated to radiation. For more information, take a look at the following links:
http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/display/article/113619/1491688
http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/display/article/113619/1475485
http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/display/article/113619/1491848

Some researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, have conducted a study with 236 asymptomatic patients to investigate the relationship between sports and knee abnormalities. Even, when further research is needed, the study shows a correlation between sports with high impact on the knees (running, jumping, skying) and cartilage deterioration. Of course, this is not a surprising discovery, but it shows clinical evidence of the effect of some sports on the human body: a warning for extreme sporters?
More information can be found at http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/conference-reports/rsna2009/display/article/113619/1491817