Health Highlights: Feb. 3, 2008

"It appears that there are genetic variations unique to each ethnic population," he said in the news release. "We are now in the process of validating our findings in African-American, Caucasian and Native-American populations."

The study was presented during the Feb. 2 annual meeting of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine Annual Meeting in Dallas, Tex.

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Blood Thinner May Have Caused Allergic Reactions in More Than 50 Dialysis Patients

Vials of the blood thinner heparin may be responsible for allergic reactions in 53 dialysis patients from 12 states.

The suspected batches of heparin were recalled by its manufacturer, Baxter Healthcare Corp. in January, the Associated Press reports, but many vials of the tainted drug were used before the recall was ordered.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its Web site that the nine multi-vial recalled lots were all made at a single plant and that at least another 12 cases are being investigated. Heparin is used to prevent clotting among patients with kidney failure while they're undergoing dialysis.

While none of the reactions has been fatal, the CDC says, the symptoms are uncomfortable and potentially dangerous: "A probable case has been defined as an episode that includes at least two of the following signs and symptoms: 1) generalized or localized sensations of warmth; 2) numbness or tingling of the extremities; 3) difficulty swallowing; 4) shortness of breath, audible wheezing, or chest tightness; 5) low blood pressure/tachycardia; or 6) nausea or vomiting."

The A.P. identifies the states where allergic episodes have been reported as California, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

"We don't know what the problem is," but heparin remains the leading candidate as the cause, CDC investigator Dr. Priti Patel told the wire service.

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New Procedures at Yale Improve Safety in Obstetrics Department

Using their own obstetrics department as the focus, Yale School of Medicine researchers have devised a set of new procedures designed to reduce medical errors in obstetric care and improve the professional staff's perception of safety issues.

The results of the study and the new procedures were to be presented over the Feb. 2-4 weekend at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine Annual Meeting in Dallas, Tex., according to a Yale news release.

Dr. Edmund Funai, a Yale associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, led a team that implemented new procedures in the OB-GYN department that have already reduced adverse outcomes in the department by more than 60 percent during the past 2.5 years, the news release said.

"Reports in the media about patient injury in the hospital setting were causing concern," Funai said in the news release, "and we sought to apply some basic principles to obstetric care to make it a great deal safer than it is right now."

Among those principles were communication training, standardizing interpretation of fetal monitoring and creating a new staff role -- patient safety nurse. An additional benefit was the professional staff's own perception of the overall safety climate. Its awareness of OB-GYN safety issues increased by 30 percent during the study period, the news release said.

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FDA Approves 1st New Drug-Eluting Stent Since 2004

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