Friday, October 24, 2014

Dementia or NPH: A Challenge!

It is difficult to decipher the motivation to diagnose dementia with undignified haste by the present government when there is no real "cure" to speak of. The Cockroach Catcher was brought up to aim to diagnose treatable conditions than incurable ones. It is therefore not unreasonable to suspect that there are different motives: from refusing certain treatment such as hip replacement or organ transplants to promoting dementia medications by big pharmas.

In all the hasty announcements including paying GPs a fee for making such a diagnosis, no mention was made of a diagnosis that mimic dementia. 

 © Am Ang Zhang 2014    


Thirty years ago, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters.

When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point
where I saw that mountains are not mountains, 
and waters are not waters. 

Thirty years on,
I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.
                                
 Adapted from Ching-yuan (1067-1120)


NPH: Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a relatively new neurologic disorder of elderly patients described by Salamon Hakim in Spanish in a thesis in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1964 . It first appeared in the medical literature in English in 1965 in articles by Hakim and Adams  and Adams, Hakim, et al. NPH is characterized by an unusual triad of neurologic symptoms — impaired gait, urinary and/or fecal incontinence, and dementia — and an anatomic abnormality, i.e., enlargement of the cerebral ventricles that can be demonstrated by computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain . Recently, another anatomic abnormality was described in NPH — a decrease in midbrain diameter on MRI  that is restored to normal by ventriculosystemic shunting . Surprisingly, the intracranial pressure of this unique type of hydrocephalus is normal, or nearly so.

The precise pathogenesis of NPH is not known, but it is well-known that despite the absence of increased intracranial pressure, the drainage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) regularly induces transient clinical improvement, and ventriculosystemic shunting (VSS) usually results in prolonged remissions . For reasons that are not clear, some “experts” still question the reversibility of NPH — and even its very existence.

The article is about the apparent lack of awareness amongst today's doctors although neurologists thankfully are more aware of it.

The article concludes:

Furthermore, other disorders of elderly people such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cerebral atrophy may show enlarged ventricles, and demential disorders may be difficult to differentiate from each other. As a patient with NPH who had erroneously been thought by a competent neurologist to have one of these other disorders for almost a decade [14], I know this differential diagnosis is very difficult.

Moreover, the criteria to define cerebral ventriculomegaly precisely are vague and difficult to establish, and enlarged ventricles are surprisingly common. Many neuroradiologists are reluctant to report borderline or even moderate degrees of hydrocephalus because such diagnoses raise complex, medical, and socioeconomic issues and inadvertently may lead to the performance of brain surgery in less than optimal surgical candidates. Although shunt insertion is not complex surgery and has low morbidity and mortality, it is not free of risk.

Finally, we believe strongly that elderly patients with these symptoms and their loved ones should have the right to make an informed decision as to whether they want shunt surgery, whatever the risk. The first author, having experienced end-stage NPH and having been essentially abandoned to his fate, did not feel that there was much to lose by choosing surgery. Happily, his dementia was subtle and his value center intact, which made the decision easy for him. Even though the decision may be more difficult for naive patients, they should be given the opportunity to make it after an unbiased presentation of the risks and benefits.

So please Mr Hunt and Mr Stevens, can we get the doctors to think NPH before Dementia!




Thursday, October 23, 2014

NHS & Wine: Simon Stevens----Sell then Sail?


Is this the sound of music for the NHS? Steven’s plans for the NHS are a big shake up for the NHS, but this time executed at a micro rather than macro level. His clear call for real extra public funding for a national health service – efficiency savings alone will not fill the black hole - will rattle politicians’ cages, but at the same he has a history of travelling on the other bus, including time at the giant American private health firm UnitedHealth, not to mention bowling from the pavilion end when advising the then Labour government about health in the early noughties. His answers this morning on the Today programme on the question of greater private sector involvement in health service delivery made up in broadness what they lacked in depth


My Take a while back.

The Cockroach Catcher was privileged to be having dinner with his good friend.

He covered the bottle when he served his favourite red wine.

"See what you think."

"Fully of blackberry and long with good tannin that has softened."

"1996 and the tannin will keep it going for another 5 years."

"Of all the recent great wines that you have served and that included the second wines of Lafite and Margaux, this is the most impressive. Just like our NHS!"

"But now you have one of the most impressive guys running it."

"Selling it, you mean!"

"I did not want to upset you."

"So you know about Simon Stevens. Not just wines then."

"You need to know that Britain is responsible for producing all the great doctors in the old commonwealth. My cardiologist was trained there. Look at Singapore, Australia & New Zealand, generations of doctors were all trained in the UK and in turn the next generations.
Why do you think that UnitedHealth paid so much to get one of the top UK guys to add a new perspective?

UnitedHealth is based in Minnesota, home of the famous Mayo Clinic and Simon Stevens is married to an American and they have school age children. As you well know, it is not easy for Americans to adjust to British life."

"So you think he is not going to last that long?"

"He has a very natural excuse!"

"Family!"

"Lets see what Bloomberg say:"
BRITISH EXPERIENCE

UnitedHealth followed up on June 30 with another report for lawmakers pinpointing $332 billion in savings through better use of technology and administrative simplification. If enacted, those changes would potentially benefit UnitedHealth's Ingenix data-crunching unit. Ingenix, with annual revenue of $1.6 billion, is poised to establish a national digital clearinghouse to ensure the accuracy of medical payments and provide a centralized service for checking the credentials of physicians.

Stevens, an Oxford-educated executive vice-president at UnitedHealth, once served as an adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In that capacity, Stevens tried to fine-tune the U.K.'s nationally run health system. Today he tells lawmakers that theU.S. need not follow Britain's example. Concessions already offered by the U.S. insurance industry—such as accepting all applicants, regardless of age or medical history—make a government-run competitor unnecessary, he argues. "We don't think reform should come crashing down because of [resistance to] a public plan," Stevens says. Many congressional Democrats have come to the same conclusion.

UnitedHealth has traveled an unlikely path to becoming a Washington powerhouse. Its last chairman and chief executive, William W. McGuire, cultivated a corporate profile as an industry insurgent little concerned with goings-on in the capital. From its Minnetonka(Minn.) headquarters, the company grew swiftly by acquisition. McGuire absorbed both rival carriers and companies that analyze data and write software. Diversification turned UnitedHealth into the largest U.S. health insurer in terms of revenue. In 2008 it reported operating profit of $5.3 billion on revenue of $81.2 billion. It employs more than 75,000 people. 


Stevens argues that while UnitedHealth will likely benefit financially from health reform, the company will also aid the cause of reducing costs. He cites what he says is its record of "bending the cost curve" for major employers. 

During a media presentation in May in Washington, Stevens said medical costs incurred by UnitedHealth's corporate clients were rising only 4% annually, less than the industry average of 6% to 8%. But that claim seemed to conflict with statements company executives made just a month earlier during a conference call with investors. On that quarterly earnings call, UnitedHealth CEO Hemsley conceded that medical costs on commercial plans would increase 8% this year. 

Asked about the discrepancy, Stevens says the lower figure he is using in Washington represents the experience of a subset of employer clients who fully deployed UnitedHealth's cost-saving techniques, including oversight of the chronically ill. "These employers stuck at it for several years," he says. "We are putting forward positive ideas based on our experience of what works."

"Wow!"

"So there is not reason for him to leave UnitedHealth! They love him. The best of British & of Oxford!"

"Perhaps he has not left UnitedHealth!"

"So perhaps a sort of UnitedNHS then!"

"Well despite what people say about Obamacare, even Stevens concede that:
.....the U.S. insurance industry—accepting all applicants, regardless of age or medical history—make a government-run competitor unnecessary, he argues.

"NHS as such was the most serious competitor to the Health Insurance Industry. It is serious because there is not even any co-pay!"

"And quality is the same as the actual specialist doctor on either side are the same."

"Only the coffee is better!"

"Whatever Stevens plan to do is not something most of us can begin to guess but my suspicion is that it would not be to anyone's liking..."

"Except the Health Insurance Industry."

"So, he will not follow the US example of insurance industry accepting all applicants, regardless of age or medical history."

"No way!"

"You see, UnitedHealth has decided to leave California because of that."

"Not profitable!"

"If Insurers need to cover everything in England, they would think twice and most likely do a California thing."

"And Stevens can go back to America then!"

"So what is the wine?"

"Big Sail Boat!"                                                              

"Big Sail Boat?"

That the logo might have helped to sell a wine is unthinkable if the wine is no good. Ch. Beychevelle was fortunate enough to have a boat on its label and the Chinese just embrace it now that Lynch Bages hit the roof and there are too many fake 1982 Lafites around.

When my friend stock up on his Beychevelle, it was he told me, just a third of the price right now.

"It will be the next Lynch Bages."

"That is why 50% has been sold to the Japanese!"


"Wow!"             


So will Simon sell or sail? Or sell then sail!



I recently learned that this month a class-action lawsuit has been filed against California United Behavioral Health (UBH), along with United Healthcare Insurance Company and US Behavioral Plan, alleging these companies improperly denied coverage for mental health care.
According to the class action lawsuit, United Behavioral Health violated California’s Mental Health Parity Act, which requires insurers to provide treatment for mental-health diagnosis according to “the same terms and conditions” applied to medical conditions. Specifically, the insurer is accused of denying and improperly limiting mental health coverage by conducting concurrent and prospective reviews of routine outpatient mental health treatments when no such reviews are conducted for routine outpatient treatments for other medical conditions. 
New York:


Pomerantz Law Firm has filed a Class Action Against UnitedHealth Group, Inc. 
for Violations of Federal and State Mental Health Parity Laws - UNH
NEW YORK, March 12, 2013 (GLOBENEWSWIRE) Pomerantz Grossman Hufford Dahlstrom & Gross LLP has filed a class action lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group Inc. (“UnitedHealth” or the “Company”)(NYSE: UNH) and various subsidiaries, including United Behavioral Health.  The class action was filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and docketed under 13 CV 1599, alleging violations of federal and state mental health parity laws and other related statutes. The action has been brought on behalf of three beneficiaries who are insured by health care plans issued or administered by United and whose coverage for mental health claims has been denied or curtailed. These plaintiffs seek to represent a nationwide class of similarly situated subscribers. In addition, the action was filed on behalf of the New York State Psychiatric Association, Inc. (“NYSPA”), a division of the American Psychiatric Association, seeking injunctive relief in a representational capacity on behalf of its members and their patients.

The health insurer violated state law nearly 1 million times from 2006 to 2008 after it was bought by UnitedHealth Group, the Department of Insurance says. The fine, if there is one, is likely to be much less than the maximum allowed.'

UNITED HEALTHCARE INSURANCE AGREES TO PAY U.S.
$3.5 MILLION TO SETTLE FRAUD CHARGES

WASHINGTON, D.C. - United Healthcare Insurance Company has agreed to pay the United States $3.5 million to settle allegations that the company defrauded the Medicare program, the Justice Department announced today.
The government alleges that beginning in or about 1996 and continuing through 2000, United Healthcare's telephone response unit knowingly mishandled certain phone inquiries received from Medicare beneficiaries and providers and then falsely reported its performance information to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) concerning the company's handling of those calls. CMS is the federal agency charged with administering the Medicare program.
From October 2, 1995 to October 1, 2000, United Healthcare acted under contract with CMS as a Durable Medical Equipment Regional Carrier. Under that contract, United Healthcare processed Medicare Part B claims for durable medical equipment submitted to it by Medicare beneficiaries, physicians, and other health care providers and suppliers located in the northeastern United States.
"This settlement demonstrates our continuing commitment to pursue vigorously allegations of fraud and abuse in Medicare," said Peter Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Department's Civil Division. "Medicare contractors, along with other health care providers, can and will be held accountable for their billing practices. This settlement demonstrates our unwavering pursuit of fraud and abuse."
The allegations of improper conduct were brought to the attention of the government by a former United Healthcare employee, who filed suit under seal in November 2001 under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the federal False Claims Act. The United States recently intervened in the whistleblower suit.
As a result of today’s settlement, the whistleblower will receive $647,500 of the settlement amount. United Healthcare did not admit any of the allegations in the complaint in connection with the settlement. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the government and share in any awards that are obtained through that legal action.
###


An Entrepreneur!         
UnitedHealth & Big Profits                                                                                                      - 

Anorexia Nervosa & Medical Ethics: Letting a patient die?


©Am Ang Zhang 2005

Can a patient be allowed to die? 
Can a seventeen year old patient be allowed to die?
Can a seventeen year old Anorexia Nervosa patient be allowed to die?

Are we not supposed to save lives?

Could doctors be held to ransom? By?

Here is a Play: Let Her Die!

The Players:

The parents:
Father used to run a business security agency specialising in industrial counter espionage. Or was it espionage? I cannot be sure.

Too often there is this bizarre desire by some parents to make sure that if they cannot do it, no one else should either. We need to recognise it early enough. We are doomed otherwise, and so is the patient.

The patient: Nicola
It was really quite painful to sit there and talk to someone who looked worse than the worst they showed from Auswitz. Why could Nicola not realise that if she wanted any man to like her she would need to look a lot better, which involved doubling her weight for starters.

The Doctors:
Dr Hillman:

This was a family given up even by Dr Hillman, my most fervent supporter of family therapy. Father used to run a business security agency specialising in industrial counter espionage. Or was it espionage? I cannot be sure.

The Consultant:
        I did not go round looking like a hippie or pretending that I liked the music the teenagers listened to. I told them to me it was trash. I did not pierce my ear or have a tattoo. I certainly did not wear trainers to work.
       
        In short, you do not have to gain respect by becoming like them or worse, by pretending that you are like them.

The Experts:
I spent one session with them and agreed with Dr Hillman. They were good. We looked like a bunch of amateurs dealing with professionals. None of the family therapy tricks work, Minuchin or Haley.
        Impenetrable!

The NHS Trust & GMC

To me, suspension on full pay is a risk every doctor takes nowadays, as the basis is no longer limited to bad practice. It is no longer a reflection on whether you are good or bad clinically. Many psychiatrists are no longer prepared to use techniques that might upset their patients or parents of their patients.

The Main Action:

A family meeting was called and it lasted only a few minutes.
          I was in top form.

          “Nicola has been eating but after two months has not put on any weight. I cannot see any reason for her to continue to stay here. She might as well do the eating at home. She can then sort out for herself why she is not gaining weight without the pressure from us.”
          I tried to put it in the calmest way possible.
          “You mean you will let her die?” Father sounded a bit annoyed.

        With that father got up and left the room without saying another word.

          “What do I do now? You have upset him!” said mother.
          Good, something got to him at last, but I did not say it.
         
Nicola gave a wry smile to me as if to say, “You found me out.”
          She turned to mum, “Let’s pack and leave this dump.”
          We all kept still.
         
Six months later, one of the nurses bumped into Nicola in a nearby town. She was kicked out by father and moved in with another ex-anorectic. She was with a boy friend. More importantly she was wearing a very sexy dress to show off her then very good figure.
          She did not die.

                                           Based on an extract from my book The Cockroach Catcher

The Cockroach Catcher on Amazon Kindle UKAmazon Kindle US

2 comments:

Dr No said...
CC - Dr No rather suspected that if you didn't turn up and comment on badmed, then you were probably doing a post of your own!

Dr No reads the moral of your post as less is more, ie the more doctors try to control patients (admission, section, forced feeding), the more the patient resists. Do the opposite (patient can go home, even die if the want to) and the patient still resists - in Nicola's case by gaining weight...even if she did do so rather rapidly...and, of course, having a spook for a dad is enough to put anyone on edge...

E's case (the one recently in the news) is very different. She was almost twice N's age, very different family by the sound of things, significant co-morbdities and a long history of failed forced feeding attempts (albeit with one early success). She was, if such a concept is meaningful, in end-stage anorexia nervosa.

Can a patient be allowed to die? Yes - we do it all the time.

Can a seventeen year old patient be allowed to die? Yes - we reluctantly and with great sadness do it from time to time.

Can a seventeen year old Anorexia Nervosa patient be allowed to die? Not if we can possibly help it. But anorexia nervosa is truly pernicious illness, and sometimes it defeats us all - although usually a bit later in the patient's life.

Would Dr No have discharged Nicola as you did? Almost certainly, and probably for the same reasons!
Cockroach Catcher said...
It is perhaps The Cockroach Catcher's own experience with young Anorexia Nervosa Patients that has coloured his views. There is in him a genuine feeling that doctors should be allowed to doctor pure and simple and in that sense he feels that psychiatrists should be doctors too, real doctors.

Remember the early days of treating phobia when bus loads of phobic patient from none other than the Maudsley were taken to Piccadilly Circus and dumped there. It was known as implosion therapy. then later suicidal patients were given the sharpest razor blades so that they can get on with it.

In Psychiatry, the best treatment is without doubt Placebos. But placebos only works if neither the patient nor the parents knew.

In reading DN's blog I reposted my patient where I let her die.

Well, did I or was that part of Haley/Minuchin treatment? You can decide.

No the early day psychiatrists did not mean harm to come to the Picadilly or Razor patients, but when non-doctors are involved, good luck to the said patients.

Perhaps DN;s patients was of Millennium Trilogy quality and ooops, what was the state doing?

Please let the real doctors or better still the real psychiatrist get on with their real work, if only they are allowed to remember how to give all the guidelines floating around.

The Cockroach Catcher retired partly because he sensed he would not be allowed to carry on his own doctoring ways.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Medicine & Religion: Pork & GBM!



Laoshan China

 © Am Ang Zhang 2011    


Thirty years ago, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters.

When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point
where I saw that mountains are not mountains, 
and waters are not waters. 

Thirty years on,
I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.
                                
 Adapted from Ching-yuan (1067-1120)
                                                                                                      
A short while back I blogged about GBM and how an innovative treatment may have helped. Being a doctor he also noted this:

My wife, Carmen Alicia, called a local friend, also a cardiologist, who sent us to a nearby hospital; there, an MRI exam revealed a small spot on my brain. The neurologist felt it needed to be biopsied to obtain a tissue diagnosis. I immediately returned to Virginia and went to several specialists, who suggested further testing before I decided to have an invasive brain biopsy. I also had a blood test for cysticercosis, an infection that results from eating undercooked pork contaminated with Tenia solium. This common parasite produces cysts all over the body, including the brain. It is the most common reason for seizures in many countries, particularly in India, where children with seizures are first treated for this disease even before other studies are done. My blood test was strongly positive. I started a course of oral medicine to treat it. The test reassured me.
My later research showed that there may indeed be some association of Tenia and GBM. 


Neurocysticercosis (NC) is the most frequent and widespread human parasitic infection of the central nervous system (CNS). Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a neoplasm of CNS in elderly population and may have a similar clinical and radiologic presentation as of NC. The coexistence of NC and neoplastic intracranial lesion in an individual is a very rare entity. The incidence of NC among intracranial space occupying lesions is reported to be 1.2-2.5%.[1–4] Though cerebral cysticercosis may be associated with glioma,[5] but this rare coexistence of NC and brain tumors puts into question a causal relationship between the 2 diseases. Here we report a case in which glioma and cysticercosis appeared concomitantly, with continuing progression of low grade Glioma to high grade Glioma (GBM, WHO grade IV).


So some religious dogma might actually be good for ones health. 


Watch out, even if you do not eat pork:


Neurocysticercosis in an Orthodox Jewish Community in New York City



All the patients and their families adhered to Orthodox Jewish dietary laws, which forbid the eating of pork. Moreover, T. solium taeniasis due to the ingestion of contaminated pork is extremely unlikely in the United States. Cysticerci were detected in only 3 of more than 83 million hogs examined after slaughter under federal inspection in 1990.
The most likely sources of infection in the patients described in this report were women living and working in the patients' homes who had recently emigrated from Latin American countries where T. solium infection is endemic.

In 2003 the world was in the grip of a new plague that challenged our knowledge of medicine to its limit.

         For the first time, doctors and nurses who were normally in the forefront of the fight against diseases were fighting for survival from SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a new and dangerously contagious disease.  The alarm was first raised by its first victim, Carlo Urbani.  He was an Italian physician employed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and based in HanoiVietnam and he gave the disease its current name. It was as if this newly mutated virus knew what it was on about. Get the doctors as they would be the first who could deal with you. Urbani died. So did some of the medical staff that attended the first few patients.

         Doctors often thought that they would be immune, a God given right I suppose.  Not so this time! The virus obviously knew what it was doing.

SARS, Freedom & Knowledge     


A doctor friend had just been diagnosed with GBM (glioblastoma multiforme) grade IV. My hospital librarian had the same tumour and told me that the hospital neurosurgeon got it too. Another close friend who is an ENT surgeon has just been diagnosed with NPC (Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma).

Looks like doctors are no longer as immune as we like to believe and that goes for those that worked closely with doctors like our beloved librarian.                                                                

Then I read an account by a doctor of his GBM.

He is a cardiologist for thirty five years, (so not a neurosurgeon then) but with the diagnosis his research unravelled one of the possible reasons for "catching" GBM.
Why?

Why did this tumor happen to me? I never smoked and had had no brain injuries, and there is no history of such tumors in my family. As a cardiologist, I had implanted close to 400 pacemakers in my life and during the procedure was exposed to ionizing radiation (X-rays). In the early days we used portable X-ray machines and gave ourselves some protection by using thin lead gowns. Nowadays, heavy lead gowns are worn, and doctors and technicians protect their thyroid and eyes with shields and glasses. We also use heavy sheets of radiation-protective glass that hang from the ceiling.

At some point in my research, I was surprised by an article by a Johns Hopkins-trained cardiologist who now practices in Israel. He had collected data on 23 invasive radiologists and cardiologists who had developed tumors, of which 17 were GBMs on the left side of the brain. I wrote to the author, who told me that he had learned of several more such cases since his article was published, and he added mine to his file."

GBM

" I had a glioblastoma multiforme (commonly called a GBM) grade IV. This is the most malignant brain tumor; no grade II or III exist. A glioblastoma is what killed Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 2009. While rare, it is the most common of the brain tumors. The prognosis is dismal; on average, patients survive only 14 months after diagnosis even with chemotherapy and radiation. After five years, only 5 percent of patients are still alive."

So depressing.

But wait: The Zapping!

" The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Cancer Center at Duke University has the largest experience on the East Coast with my sort of tumor, so I went there for further consultation and treatment.

As doctors there examined me, it was obvious that my tumor had already grown again; in fact, it had quadrupled in size since my initial chemo and radiation. I was offered several treatments and experimental protocols, one of which involved implanting a modified polio virus into my brain. (This had been very successful in treating GBMs in mice.) Duke researchers had been working on this for 10 years and had just received permission from the FDA to treat 10 patients, but for only one a month."

The procedure:

"I was given the Salk polio vaccine to prevent a systemic polio infection.


At Duke, my skull was opened under local anesthesia and I had the viral infusion dripped through a small catheter directly into the tumor in my brain for six hours."

The result:

"I returned to Duke a month after the infusion, and though an MRI showed some expected swelling, the more significant fact was that the tumor had stopped growing. I have gone back to Duke every two months since then, and the tumor, initially the size of a grape, is now a scar, the size of a small pea. It’s been two years since the initial biopsy and radiation, and one year since the experimental polio viral treatment, and I have no evidence of recurrence nor tumor regrowth.

According to a presentation about the research that the Duke doctors gave last May, the results so far are promising: “The first patient enrolled in our study (treated in May 2012) had her symptoms improve rapidly upon virus infusion (she is now symptom-free), had a response in MRI scans, is in excellent health, and continues in school 9 months after the return of her brain tumor was diagnosed. Four patients enrolled in our trial remain alive, and we have observed similarly encouraging responses in other patients. One patient died six months following ... infusion, due to tumor regrowth.” They added: “Remarkably, there have been no toxic side effects ... whatsoever, even at the highest possible dose.”

That has been true for me. I feel as fit as I was three years ago, before the first symptoms of the glioblastoma made their appearance. I remain only on an anti-seizure medication."