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Aug 27, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- NEW PROCEDURE ENCOURAGES KIDNEY DONATIONS

A new, less-invasive approach to removing a kidney from a living donor is prompting more people to give one of their kidneys to someone in need of a transplant. The increase, according to researchers at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, is due to a surgical procedure called laparoscopic kidney removal, which makes the process much easier on the donor. Donating a kidney through the traditional "open" method usually requires a 10-inch incision, a five-day hospital stay and six to seven weeks of lost work time for recovery. But the laparoscopic technique allows the kidney to be removed through a small incision in the abdomen. Two incisions, each less than one inch, are made in the upper abdomen to insert a camera as well as other viewing instruments, followed by a 4-inch incision in the lower abdomen through which the kidney is removed. The procedure allows donors to return to their normal activities in one-third the time of the traditional approach. There also is less pain, a shorter hospital stay -- usually three days -- and a faster return to regular food than with the open procedure. The researchers caution, however, that even with the greater number of people coming forward to donate kidneys, demand still far outstrips supply. More than 55,000 people currently await kidney transplants nationwide, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

CALCIUM AN EARLY HEART ATTACK WARNING?

The amount of calcium accumulated in the coronary arteries can help predict whether an individual with no symptoms of heart disease will suffer a fatal event within five years. Calcium and other material contributes to the formation of plaque in the inner lining of an artery. If the plaque grows large enough to reduce blood flow significantly, it can cause a rupture in the vessel or blood clots that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Researchers at Tulane University tracked more than 10,000 people who were thought to be candidates for heart attacks because of risk factors or family backgrounds. When the researchers screened participants for calcium levels in their coronary arteries, they found survival at five years worsened substantially as the calcium scores increased. Compared to calcium scores of 10 or under, the relative risk of mortality was almost two-and-a-half times greater for patients with scores from 11 to 100, about three-and-a-half times greater for scores of 101 to 400, about six times greater for scores of 401 to 1,000, and about 12 times greater for scores higher than 1,000.

SOME CHILDREN'S ANTIBIOTICS INADEQUATE

Children with sickle cell disease often do not get the daily dose of antibiotics that they need to protect them from deadly infections. University of Washington researchers studied children covered by Medicaid insurance in two states and found pharmacies only provided the children with antibiotics for an average of 148 days a year. It has long been recommended children with sickle cell anemia take antibiotics every day for the first five years of life. The study shows children were at risk of developing a serious infection for nearly 60 percent of the year. Researchers noted that 148 days was only the average -- one out of 10 children received no antibiotics at all. They said, however, there are many reasons children are not getting the antibiotics they need. The barrier does not seem to be financial because Medicaid requires only a small percentage of the families to make co-payments for prescriptions. "One possibility is that doctors are not writing the prescriptions," researchers said. "Another possibility is that doctors are writing the prescriptions, but the families are not filling them."

DENTAL PROCEDURE REDUCES PREMATURE BIRTH RISK

A non-surgical dental procedure could reduce the risk of preterm birth in pregnant women with periodontal disease. Nearly 12 percent of babies in the United States are born before 37 weeks, which increases their risk of death and disabilities such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, lung and gastrointestinal problems, and vision and hearing loss. University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers examined 366 pregnant women who had periodontitis, a serious gum infection that destroys attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold teeth in the mouth. They found as much as an 84 percent reduction of premature births in women who were less than 35 weeks pregnant and who received scaling and root planing. The researchers also found using adjunctive metronidazole therapy -- an antibiotic used to treat infections -- did not improve pregnancy outcome. In fact, women who were given the antibiotic after scaling and root planing had more preterm births than patients receiving scaling and root planing and a placebo.

(Editors: For more information on KIDNEYS, contact Kristen Walsh at 732-937-8521 or kristen.walsh@rwjuh.edu. For CORONARY, Maureen Morley at 630-590-7754 or mmorley@rsna.org. For ANTIBIOTICS, Walter Neary or Pam Sowers at 206-543-3620 or wneary@u.washington.edu. For PERIODONTAL, Amy Duff at 312-573-3244 or amyd@perio.org)

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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