Health Highlights: Sept. 1, 2008

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

Angioplasty Needs More Follow-Up Than Bypass: Study

While bypass surgery and angioplasty offer similar results for heart patients with clogged arteries, those who have angioplasties are twice as likely to require another procedure within a year, new research contends.

For a presentation Monday at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Munich, European doctors compared the effectiveness of open-heart surgery versus angioplasty in a trial of more than 3,000 patients in Europe and the United States, according to the Associated Press.

    • Angioplasty Needs More Follow-Up Than Bypass: Study
    • Maine Bans Smoking in Cars With Kids
    • Alcohol to Blame for 12% of Native Americans' Deaths: Report
    • Feds Can Bar Mad Cow Tests: Court

About a third of the patients had medical conditions that required surgery. The remaining patients were randomly assigned to receive either bypass surgery or angioplasty, a non-surgical procedure which involves use of a stent to prop the artery open.

After one year, researchers found that the death rate among the two groups was virtually the same: 7.7 percent among surgery patients and 7.6 percent among angioplasty patients, the AP reported. But almost 14 percent of those who had angioplasty needed another procedure after a year, compared with about 6 percent of bypass patients. On the other hand, those who had surgery had about a 2 percent stroke risk versus almost zero risk for those who had an angioplasty.

The study was paid for by Boston Scientific, makers of heart stents.


Maine Bans Smoking in Cars With Kids

On Monday, the state of Maine joined California, Arkansas, Louisiana and some Canadian provinces in banning smoking in a car when children are present.

The new law outlaws smoking in cars while youths under 16 are present. The law authorizes a $50 fine for violation, but for the first year police may issue only warnings, the Associated Press reported.

Gov. John Baldacci hailed the legislation as a strike against secondhand smoke when he signed it into law in April. He said tobacco use costs too many lives and too much money.


Alcohol to Blame for 12% of Native Americans' Deaths: Report

An estimated 12 percent of the deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives are due to alcohol, a figure that's more than three times higher than for the general population.

That's the conclusion of a federal report released this week that found that 11.7 percent of deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives between 2001 and 2005 were alcohol-related, compared with 3.3 percent for the population as a whole, the Associated Press reported.

Dwayne Jarman, one of the study authors and an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the report was the first national survey to measure the alcohol-related death rate among American Indians. And, he said, it should serve as a "call to action" for federal, state, local and tribal governments to combat the problem.

The two leading causes of alcohol-related deaths among Indians were traffic accidents and alcoholic liver disease; each caused more than 25 percent of the 1,514 alcohol-related deaths recorded over the study's four-year period.

The report also listed homicide to blame for 6.6 percent of alcohol-related deaths; suicide, 5.2 percent; and injuries due to falls, 2.2 percent, the AP said.

Sixty-eight percent of the victims were men, and 66 percent were people younger than 50 years old; 7 percent were less than 20 years old, the report found.

And the situation may be even more dire because the report didn't count deaths related to some diseases for which alcohol is believed to be a risk factor, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and colon cancer, the AP said.


Feds Can Bar Mad Cow Tests: Court

The U.S. government has the authority to bar meat companies from testing their animals for mad cow disease, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The Department of Agriculture's failure to test more than a fraction of cows for the brain-wasting disease prompted one meat company to announce that it would test all of its bovines, the Associated Press reported.

But the government turned thumbs down on that request, from Kansas meat producer Creekstone Farms. Bigger meat packers feared the move would force them to employ the costly test on all of their cows, as well, the wire service said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in overturning a lower court ruling, upheld the government's right to prevent Creekstone from testing its cows, the AP said.