Steroids, the killing season, telehealth, Dupuytren's
For the best chance of good recovery from strokes patients need to be treated within a few hours. In Cumbria new technology is helping stroke patients all over the north west.
Apart from a few cases that hit the headlines, the use of anabolic steroids is rare among the athletes in the Olympic village. But in the wider society abuse has exploded, according to an expert from Liverpool John Moores University. Jim McVeigh - who's Deputy Director at the Centre for Public Health - says that anabolic steroid abusers are the largest group using needle exchanges. Anabolic steroids are naturally occurring hormones, like testosterone, which influence growth, physical development and the workings of the reproductive system. Abuse allows athletes to train harder for longer so they become bigger, stronger and faster. But those effects will not be seen if you don't exercise or fail to eat and sleep properly. The injected steroids are often combined with tablets. There are a number of side effects like a growth in breast tissue, acne, baldness and shrinking testes - as well as longer-term health concerns for the heart and kidneys. Although they share the same umbrella term - steroids - anabolic steroids are not the same as drugs from the corticosteroid family - found in cortisone joint injections and some types of creams for eczema, sprays for hayfever and inhalers for asthma.
For the best chance of good recovery from strokes patients need to be treated within a few hours. In the Lake District new technology is giving suspected stroke patients access to specialists - using high speed broadband and video cameras. Dr Paul Davies is Consultant Stroke physician at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle. He can assess a patient's scans and other tests over a video connection - with the help of nurses and doctors treating them locally. Thrombolytic - or clotbusting treatment - can be given if the stroke is one of the 80% caused by a clot. It's important to get this diagnosis right as the other 20% are the result of a bleed - which could be potentially fatal if thrombolysis is given.
It's has been dubbed the Killing Season by some sections of the media - but Dr Margaret McCartney believes that August isn't as risky a time to be in hospital as the headlines claim. One study compared the number of deaths at the end of July and the beginning of August - but the difference wasn't statistically significant and could have been down to chance rather than a real harmful effect of new doctors.
Inside Health listener and keen pianist Roger emailed the programme about Dupuytren's contracture - where the fingers curve into the hand and can't be straightened. A new treatment is becoming available on the NHS for this common problem which affects 1 in 10 people's hands. The only option used to be surgery but Mike Hayton, who's a Consultant Orthopaedic Hand Surgeon at Wrightington Hospital in Lancashire, is now carrying out collagenase injections on some of his patients. Up to 60% of Dupuytrens patients can benefit from the treatment - which helps to break down the collagen-rich cords so they can then be snapped a day or two later.