Included below are news items from the last six months.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a final rule that now allows a patient, or a person designated by the patient, direct access to laboratory test reports without the need to have the tests sent to a physician first.
Based on analysis of data from four large, randomized clinical trials, an international HPV screening working group has concluded that screening with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV) in addition to a Pap smear is more effective than Pap smears alone in reducing the rate of invasive cervical cancer.
Influenza (flu) activity remains high in the U.S. this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The flu season usually peaks between January and March and the 2013-2014 season seems to be following this pattern, but flu infections appear to be more severe and affecting more people in more parts of the country than in previous years.
The FDA recently instructed a genetic testing company to discontinue marketing saliva collection kits and personal genomic services for the purpose of health information until the company has provided evidence that their tests perform as intended. Genetic tests can cause serious consequences if not properly validated and results interpreted correctly. The company has complied with the FDA's instruction and has notified customers with a message on its website that it has suspended its health-related genetic test reporting during its regulatory review process.
Cases of the mosquito-borne viral infection chikungunya have been reported in several islands in the Caribbean, leading the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a travel health notice. According to the CDC, this is the first time that local transmission of this particular virus has been reported in the Americas.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released new guidelines recommending that all pregnant women be screened for gestational diabetes—diabetes that develops during pregnancy—after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Since this condition may produce no obvious signs or symptoms yet result in serious complications for both mother and baby, glucose testing is recommended to screen women at the end of their second trimester. The updated guidelines from the USPSTF come into closer alignment with the advice of several other medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Diabetes Association.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently issued a report by its Task Force on Hypertension in Pregnancy that recommends changes to the way preeclampsia – a severe form of high blood pressure – is diagnosed. Specifically, the Task Force is recommending that the presence of high levels of protein in a pregnant woman's urine no longer be a requirement for diagnosis due to concerns that relying on that sign could hamper timely diagnosis and treatment of preeclampsia in some women.
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have released extensive new guidelines for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment intended to better define what important factors are involved in determining CVD risk and to provide ways to reduce risk through treatment and lifestyle modifications. The guidelines are long-awaited after the organizations took five years to perform a comprehensive review of new research and the latest cardiovascular medical evidence. It is not yet known how the recommendations will impact clinical practice, and any changes that may take place will be implemented over time.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the College of American Pathologists (CAP) have joined forces to issue an updated guideline on testing for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) in patients with invasive breast cancer. Such testing identifies patients who could benefit from treatment that targets HER2.
The Endocrine Society and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) have joined the Choosing Wisely® campaign, making recommendations for the appropriate use of certain laboratory tests ordered as part of patient care related to hormone disorders and conditions.
Although current standards for creatinine blood tests do not require fasting, a new study recommends a 12-hour fast or refraining from eating cooked meat prior to testing. Consuming cooked meat can temporarily increase the level of creatinine in the blood, possibly causing artificially high test results.
Patients who choose to use an online interactive personal health record (IPHR) are almost twice as likely to be up to date with recommended preventive health services, including laboratory screenings, as those who don't, according to a recent study. Researchers evaluated use of an online system that created personalized recommendations for patients based on their input on health questionnaires, their medical records, and guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Findings suggest that IPHRs may prove to be a valuable tool for improving healthcare for patients who wish to take a more active role in their care.
A recent study suggests that a blood test for neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) is a valuable tool for predicting which patients admitted to the hospital will develop a sudden loss of kidney function, known as acute kidney injury (AKI). If not detected and treated quickly, AKI can cause permanent kidney damage and can be life-threatening.
A number of cases of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever have been reported in Florida recently, prompting a public health alert by the Florida Department of Health. The cases were reported in the Martin, St. Lucie, and Miami-Dade counties and, as of September 18th, the count is at 20. Florida residents and anyone traveling to the counties where the recent cases have been reported are being encouraged to take preventive measures to avoid mosquito bites. Anyone who experiences a high fever within two weeks of travel to an area where dengue fever is endemic, or travels to or lives where current cases have been reported, should consult their health care provider to determine if testing for dengue fever would be appropriate.
The CDC has released preliminary new data on the number of people in the U.S. who are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year and it's ten times what was previously thought. The new, higher estimate is based on findings from three ongoing studies and helps to give a more accurate picture of Lyme disease as a public health problem, particularly in those states with high rates of the disease.