HealthBeat: A better way to see injured brains
The tiniest problems can still have complicated solutions.
The metal clips used to treat brain aneurysms – all of 18 mm long – interfere with the machines that allow doctors to see the brain.
After several years of research and attempts at a solution, a Concord man recently won a business innovation prize for his proposed design using an alternative material that allows for clear brain imaging after an aneurysm.
Approximately 35,000 people in the United States suffer from ruptured brain aneurysms, 40 percent of which are fatal, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. Of those patients who survive the initial rupture, roughly half are treated with a clip that clamps onto the bleeding vessel and stops the bleeding.
All patients treated with an aneurysm clip require at least one post-operative brain scan, which will never be clear, because interference from the metal clips creates streaks and blurs (called artifact) in the images.
Craig Litherland, a Michigan native, had been working in the biomedical engineering industry since 1999 before moving to Concord to study patent law at the University of New Hampshire School of Law in 2011. With a friend who works as a neurosurgeon, he’s been trying to tackle that problem for several years.
The trouble, he said, was the design of current clips: “You can’t just switch the imaging clip from metal to plastic, because it works like a spring. The current technology is a coil spring, and so you can’t make a coil spring out of plastic.”
Instead, Litherland developed a different design that relies on flexing plastic and won $25,000 that he’ll use to create prototypes by the end of the year.
“I don’t know if it will work, but I know that based on the calculations it should,” he said.
Keeping it off, for decades
A lot of medical research on weight and obesity focuses on how we get unhealthy: what we eat, how much we sit, what role genetics plays.
Here’s a look at the other side: how two local women lost weight and kept it off, for decades.
Libby Audette and Noel Grossman, both Concord residents are members of a local chapter of TOPS, Taking Off Pounds Sensibly. They each received a pendant last week marking 35 years of successful weight loss.
When she joined the club, Audette, 83, was just looking to get a little healthier.
“I just started out being careful and doing exercise and going to the meetings,” she said. Being careful means, to her, “don’t go for a lot of sweets and no tonics; just eat things that are good for you, fruits and vegetables.
“It’s not easy. You just gotta have the will power and if it’s something that you want, you’ll do it,” she said.
She dedicated an hour each morning – starting at about 5 a.m. – to walking, when the weather was good.
She lost 20 pounds, and though she’s moved her walks up to maybe 5:45 a.m., she’s still keeping the weight off.
“I had my mind made up that I wanted to lose wight. You have to go for it. It takes a lot of will power and motivation,” she said.
Noel Grossman, 87, agreed.
She joined TOPS after deciding to become a registered dietician.
“The more I knew about nutrition, I knew it’s not a one-time deal, your weight goes down and then you go eat donuts and chips again,” she said.
It helped steel her resolve that her husband had a heart condition, she said.
“The candy and the ice cream, the hot dogs all that went. I was concerned about his health. And you’re not going to sit there eating potato chips and feeding your husband vegetables,” she said.
He didn’t “ooh” and “aah” over her trimmer figure as she lost weight, but that was okay with her, because “you have to lose weight for yourself, so I can feel better and hope to live longer, to be able to keep up moving, driving, exercising and able to walk.”
Her biggest advice to people just starting to try losing weight is to read labels and really understand what they’re eating, and to know why they’re trying to lose weight in the first place.
“It’s got to come from their heart. They have got to do it themselves, so it’s got to be something that they want.”
Improving dental health
The New Hampshire Oral Health Coalition, through the New Hampshire Public Health Association, received a $100,000 grant from the DentaQuest Foundation for finding out where public health dental hygienists could be most effective in the state, then educating and deploying them to help combat and prevent dental health problems.
Six other states won grants from the DentaQuest Foundation this year, joining 18 that won grants previously.
Throughout the year, the coalition will host five community meetings to gather dentists, public health leaders, city and county representatives, and consumer advocates to inform and educate each other on existing community oral health services, public health delivery systems, and ways to increase oral health providers where they are most needed.
Then, coalition members will develop a plan to address prevention and public health infrastructure; oral health literacy; collaboration between the medical and dental communities; and developing methods of measuring oral health improvement, among other issues.
The coalition will also be looking at existing systems, such as the community health centers or county service agencies, which could oversee the deployment of the hygienists to offices where they’d work under a dentist’s supervision.
For information about the local meetings, visit nhoralhealth.org.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)