Health Highlights: Dec. 19, 2007

The AHRQ found that:

  • About 20,000 hospital patients died from chronic pulmonary heart disease in 2005 -- a death rate of 4.4 percent. That's two times higher than the overall death rate for all hospital patients.
  • Women accounted for 60 percent of hospital stays for pulmonary heart disease.
  • In 2005, hospitalizations for pulmonary heart disease cost $5.6 billion. Each hospital stay for a patient with pulmonary heart disease cost an average of $12,400, compared to an average of $8,100 for all hospital stays.


Contaminated Syringes Linked to Blood Infections

U.S. health authorities are investigating a suspected link between bacteria-contaminated syringes and blood infections in 40 people in Illinois and Texas, including 20 outpatients from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the Associated Press reported. There have been no deaths.

Earlier this month, Rush doctors traced the infections to heparin-filled syringes used during home treatment for cancer and other health problems. Heparin is a blood thinner. The heparin-filled syringes were from a single batch produced by Sierra Pre-Filled of Angier, N.C., the AP said.

Syringes from that same batch were also sent to Colorado, Florida and Pennsylvania, but no infections have been reported in those states, said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AP reported.

The infections, caused by bacteria called Serratia marcescens, can cause fever and chills. While such infections can be serious, they generally respond well to antibiotics.

Sierra Pre-Filled has recalled the affected batch of syringes and is cooperating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the investigation, the AP reported. Doctors are being alerted about the contaminated syringes and asked to watch for cases of infection.


Green Tea Halves Risk of Advanced Prostate Cancer: Study

Men who drink five or more cups of green tea a day may reduce their risk of advanced prostate cancer by about half, according to a Japanese study published online Wednesday in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The study included 49,920 men who were surveyed in 1990 and 1993 and followed until 2004. During that time, 404 of the men were diagnosed with prostate cancer: 114 with advanced cancer; 271 with localized cancer; and 19 with cancer of undetermined stage, Agence France-Presse reported.

The researchers found that men who drank five or more cups of green tea a day were 50 percent less likely to have advanced prostate cancer than those who drank less than one cup of green tea daily.

There was no association between green tea and localized prostate cancer, the study authors said, AFP reported.

The researchers noted that green tea contains catechin, a substance that curbs levels of testosterone. The male hormone is believed to be a risk factor for prostate cancer.


Marijuana Smoke Packed With Toxins

Inhaled marijuana smoke contains higher levels of certain toxins than tobacco smoke, according to a Health Canada study, BBC News reported.

Compared to tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains 20 times as much ammonia (a chemical linked to cancer) and about five times as much hydrogen cyanide (heart damage) and nitrogen oxides (lung damage), the Canadian government researchers said.

However, the found that tobacco smoke contained higher levels of a toxin linked to infertility, BBC News reported. The findings were reported in New Scientist.

Previous research has concluded that marijuana smoke does more harm to the lungs than tobacco smoke because marijuana smoke is inhaled more deeply and held in the lungs for a longer time.

"The health impact of cannabis is often overlooked amid the legal debate," Dr. Richard Russell, a specialist at the Windsor Chest Clinic in the United Kingdom, told BBC News. "These findings do not surprise me. The toxins from cannabis smoke cause lung inflammation, lung damage and cancer."

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