Health Highlights: Nov. 27, 2007

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Cheney's Heart Rhythm Restored to Normal

An electrical shock was used to restore normal rhythm to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's heart Monday evening. The procedure at George Washington University Hospital was described as a low-risk, standard practice, the Associated Press reported.

An irregular heartbeat was detected in Cheney, 66, at about 7 a.m. ET Monday by doctors checking the vice president for a lingering cough from a cold. It was determined that he had atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart.

    • Cheney's Heart Rhythm Restored to Normal
    • Experimental Heart Stent Shows Positive Results
    • Rhode Island Hospital Fined After 3rd Brain Surgery Mishap
    • Electronic Harassment of U.S. Adolescents Increasing
    • Encore Tabs May Contain Potentially Harmful Ingredients
    • Scientists Contemplate Artificial Limbs With Sense of Touch

Cheney worked throughout Monday and went to the hospital at about 5 p.m. He was discharged about 7:30 p.m. and returned to work Tuesday, the AP reported.

"An electrical impulse was used to restore the upper chambers to normal rhythm," said Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell. "The procedure went smoothly and without complication."

Cheney has a history of heart problems. He's had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties, and has an implanted heart defibrillator, the AP reported.


Experimental Heart Stent Shows Positive Results

Abbott Laboratories' experimental Xience V heart stent continues to show positive results in clinical testing, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Stents are wire mesh cylinders inserted into arteries after blockages have been removed to prevent the vessels from reclogging. New data from a two-year study of more than 600 patients showed the Xience device was more effective in preventing reclogging than the market leader, Boston Scientific's Taxus 2, the newspaper said.

Xience, however, did not show an advantage when it came to preventing deaths or reducing heart attack rates, the Times said of data provided by the company and federal regulators.

Xience is among a class of stents that are coated with a drug designed to better prevent re-clogging than their bare-metal cousins.

An expert panel advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to meet Thursday to decide whether to recommend approval of Xience by the full agency.


Rhode Island Hospital Fined After 3rd Brain Surgery Mishap

Rhode Island Hospital has been fined $50,000 by the state health department after doctors there performed surgery on the wrong side of a patient's head for the third time in less than a year, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The hospital is owned by a non-for-profit corporation, Lifespan, and is a teaching hospital for Brown University, the wire service said.

After the Department of Health levied the fine and said it was "extremely concerned" about the recent mishaps, the hospital issued a statement saying it would re-evaluate its training methods and beef up oversight procedures.

The most recent incident occurred Friday when the chief resident began surgery on the wrong side of an 82-year-old man's brain, the department said. That man was expected to recover, as has the victim of a similar incident in February, the AP reported.

But in August, a patient died several weeks after a doctor operated on the wrong side of his brain. Each of the three operations was performed by different physicians.

The August death prompted the state to order the hospital to take preventive steps, including launching an independent review of the institution's neurosurgery practices, the wire service said.


Electronic Harassment of U.S. Adolescents Increasing

The use of electronic media to harass American adolescents is a serious problem, according to a series of studies published Tuesday in a supplement to the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The supplement is the first collection of data to examine how electronic media -- including blogs, instant messaging, chat rooms, email, and text messaging -- affect American adolescents. The supplement was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the studies' key findings:

  • In 2000, 6 percent of Internet users ages 10 to 17 said they'd been subjected to online harassment, compared to 9 percent in 2005.
  • Adolescents who were harassed online were more likely to get detention, be suspended, skip school, and to experience emotional distress.
  • Adolescents who received rude or nasty comments via text messaging were six times more likely than other students to report that they felt unsafe at school.
  • Sixty-four percent of adolescents who were harassed online were not harassed or bullied at school.
  • While technology can be useful for developing social and communication skills, it can also create health and safety risks for adolescents.


Encore Tabs May Contain Potentially Harmful Ingredients

Encore Tabs, a dietary supplement, are being recalled because they may contain potentially harmful undeclared ingredients, warned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

One lot of Encore Tabs, distributed by Bodee LLC of California, was found to contain aminotadalafil, an analog of tadalafil, the active ingredient of a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction. The undeclared chemical in Encore Tabs may interact with nitrates found in some prescription drugs (such as nitroglycerin) and in some users could lower blood pressure to dangerous levels, the FDA said.

People with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease may be prescribed nitrates.

Encore Tabs were sold across the United States and in Canada. Consumers should stop using the product immediately and contact their doctor if they've had any health issues since they started taking it, the FDA advised.


Scientists Contemplate Artificial Limbs With Sense of Touch

In what may be the first step toward creating artificial limbs with a sense of touch, U.S. scientists were able to restore a form of feeling to two patients with prosthetic arms.

This was achieved by rerouting the remaining nerves from the patients' lost limbs to their chests, BBC News reported. After the procedure, the patients said they could "feel" their missing arms and hands in their chests. When pressure or heat was applied to their chests, the patients felt as if their hand was being touched.

Results of the research appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research team leader Dr. Todd Kuiken said this success could pave the way to providing a sense of touch for people with prosthetic limbs, BBC News reported. Kuiken is director of the Neural Engineering Center for Artificial Limbs at Northwestern University, and director of Amputee Services at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

"Our results illustrate a method for creating a portal to the sensory pathways of a lost limb," the researchers wrote. "This work offers the possibility that an amputee may one day be able to feel with an artificial limb as though it was his own."