Friday, April 21, 2017

Resources 3rd-year medical students study during general surgery clerkships

At the University of Florida medical school, the answers to that question varied widely. According to a paper published ahead of print in the American Journal of Surgery, students at UF use review books, e-books such as UpToDate, government agency and professional organization websites, textbooks, journals, and more.

The recommended textbook for the course is Lawrence’s Essentials of General Surgery, now in its fifth edition.

The authors surveyed the 133 members of the 2014-2015 third-year class, and 92 (69.2%) responded. Regarding each resource used, they could answer with one of four choices: always, usually, sometimes, never.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Should a consultant pass through the ED to see what's up?

A couple of weeks ago, this tweet appeared.
I could relate to it for two reasons. One, I lived in New York City in 1975, and here is the other.

Early in my career, I thought it was a good idea when leaving the hospital at night to exit via the emergency department to see if there were any potential surgery cases brewing. I was hoping to avoid going all the way home, getting paged to the ED, and having to go right back to the hospital. I soon learned to stop that practice because it was similar to poking a skunk.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bizarre medical stories ripped from the virtual pages of the Internet

A 30-year-old California woman died after a naturopath gave her an intravenous infusion of turmeric—yes, turmeric, a spice used in curry, supposedly has anti-inflammatory properties when taken by mouth.

An naturopath who only uses turmeric orally was quoted in a San Diego ABC news report, "There are some doctors who use turmeric extract in IV form to try and heighten the physiological effects, so the anti-inflammatory effects of the turmeric. It hasn’t been well studied. It’s more theoretical, so it’s more investigational.” Unlike most naturopathic treatments, IV turmeric hasn't been well studied.

According to NBC San Diego, the medical examiner said she died of a heart attack and ruled the death an accident. In fact, the story was headlined "Tumeric Solution Through IV To Blame, in Part, For Women's Death: ME." In part?

The naturopath has yet to be named in any news story. How is this not manslaughter or criminal negligence? If an MD had given say, oregano intravenously, would it still have been an accident? Would the doctor's name still be unknown? I think it would be on Yahoo's front page.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Surgical fellowship match results for 2017

Two weeks ago, I reviewed the preliminary results of the 2017 main NRMP match. Data for the specialty match, also known as the fellowship match, recently became available. Here are the outcomes for the subspecialties of general surgery.

For abdominal transplant surgery, 36 of 58 programs filled, comprising 51 of 74 positions. There were 75 applicants with 24 going unmatched. The number of transplant programs has dropped from 69 in 2013 with a concomitant decrease in the number of available positions from 84 to 74. Applicants numbered 116 in 2013, and except for a slight upturn in 2016, interest has steadily declined. Consistent with the previous four years, US grads filled 31% of the positions in 2017.

Colon and rectal surgery filled all 56 programs and all 95 positions; 35 of the 130 applicants failed to match. Colorectal has filled 100% of positions available in three of the last five years. US grads filled 75% of the slots which is fairly consistent with previous years.

Pediatric surgery’s 44 programs filled all but one of the 45 available positions. This is the first time in the last five years that pediatric surgery did not fill 100% of its slots through the match. There were 96 applicants this year, and 52 of them did not secure a position. US grads filled 80% of the slots which is a slightly lower percentage than previous years.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

An expert witness goes the extra mile

A Canadian dermatologist was found guilty of professional misconduct by a disciplinary committee of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons. He had been accused of rubbing his penis against the legs of two patients he was examining.

In his defense, the doctor said it couldn't have happened because he was so obese that his penis was covered by abdominal fat.

After 38 days of testimony, the committee was in effect a “hung” jury regarding the penis allegation but found against the doctor for rubbing his abdomen against the patients without "any form of warning, apology or excuse." The committee found the conduct "disgraceful, dishonorable or unprofessional."

One of several fact witnesses, not a direct party in the case but having seen the doctor, was asked how she knew it was a penis rubbing against her. She said, “I’m a woman of almost 70 years; I know what a penis is and what it feels like. I have no doubt at all that it was a penis.”

The doctor was also found guilty on charges of touching a patient's breasts under her bra without a valid clinical reason for doing so and for not giving patients a warning or explanation before removing some of their clothes.

The most interesting part of the hearing was that both the defense and the college had retained expert urologists to examine the dermatologist to see if the patients' allegations would have been possible.

The defense expert examined the dermatologist with and without an erection and said it would not have been possible for him to have done what the patients alleged.

The urologist for the college pretended to be the patient on the examining table with the dermatologist reprising his role as the examiner. At three different table positions, the urologist said he was able to feel the dermatologist's chemically induced erection.

I tried to imagine the conversation between representatives of the college and their expert witness prior to his encounter with the defendant.

College: Are you willing to be our expert?
Urologist: Yes. What do I have to do?
College: You must determine if the accused's erect penis can be felt at various heights of the examining table.
Urologist: How should I do that?
College: Just give him a drug to produce an erection, lie on the table while the defendant presses up against you, and testify about what you feel.
Urologist: Say what?

I tweeted a link to one of the newspaper articles about this case, and @Laconic_doc said he knew all along “the evidence wouldn't stand up in court.”

References:
Globenews.ca
The star.com

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Evidence? We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence

One of my posts requires clarification. The post "A paper of mine was published. Did anyone read it?" went live in August 2014 and has been viewed 5133 times to date.

A reader had emailed me to ask if I might know why two papers he had written did not cause much of a stir in the orthopedic world. One reason might have been that the papers appeared in an obscure orthopedic journal.

I then wrote: "A paper in Physics World claims that that 90% of published papers are never cited and 50% are never read by anyone but the authors and the journals' peer reviewers." This is simply not true.

The link in the above paragraph originally went to a nebulous Indiana University web page and eventually became a "file not found." The source of the 2007 Physics World paper remained elusive. The subject came up again about a week ago on Twitter and a follower, @TirathPatelMD, sent me a link to the full text.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Brief summary of 2017 residency match data

Here are some snippets from the NRMP Advance Data Tables for the 2017 Main Residency Match.

The number of PGY-1 positions offered was the highest total ever. US allopathic medical school seniors in the match numbered 18,539, which is also a new high. Only 5.7% of US seniors failed to match. That was a slightly lower percentage compared to 2016 and 2015.

The numbers were not as good for previous graduates of US allopathic medical schools with only 46% of 1472 applicants matching. Osteopathic graduates fared better with 81.7% of 3590 applicants matching.

I have blogged about the prospects for international medical school graduates. Of the 5069 US citizen graduates of international medical schools, 54.8% matched—a rate consistent with the totals for the last four years.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nonoperative treatment of appendicitis in children: Is it safe?

After writing my 21st post about appendicitis back in November, I swore I would not write about it again for the foreseeable future.

Well, the future is now because investigators from the United Kingdom and Canada just published a meta-analysis including 10 papers and 413 children about the efficacy and safety of nonoperative treatment for appendicitis in children.

They concluded that nonoperative management is effective in 96% of children with acute uncomplicated appendicitis during their initial hospitalizations with just 17 (4%) children requiring appendectomy before discharge. An additional 68 (16.4%) developed recurrent appendicitis later, and 19 of these patients were treated with the second course of antibiotics. The other 49 underwent appendectomy with histologic evidence of recurrent appendicitis.

Another 11 patients underwent appendectomy in the follow-up period for various reasons. In all, 77 (18.6%) patients initially treated with antibiotics eventually underwent appendectomy.

Although the initial hospital length of stay for appendectomy was shorter than that of patients treated with antibiotics, complication rates were similar.

These findings were met with headlines like "Antibiotics, not surgery, could treat appendicitis in children, study suggests" from The Guardian and "Is Surgery Always Needed for Kids' Appendicitis?" from US News.

What are the problems with this paper?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Vacation notice

As of the evening of February 22, I will be out of the country with limited Internet access. I'll be back on March 12.

Comments left on posts may not be approved for a few days. Please be patient.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Will robots eliminate the need for surgeons?

A medical student from Germany emailed me saying he had always wanted to be a surgeon, but someone told him that by 2030 surgeons would no longer be needed because robots would be doing all the operations. He worried that after years of studying and hard work, he might lose his job to “R2-D2.”

He mentioned IBM’s Watson and a recent paper that appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine about a robot that can handle and suture bowel.

He asks, “What do you think about the future of surgery?”

Thank you for your email and the link to the paper.

I read the paper and was amused by its title "Supervised autonomous robotic soft-tissue surgery" which is an oxymoron. The definition of autonomous is "acting independently or having the freedom to do so." This “supervised” robot is not really autonomous.

The robot is capable of performing a nearly technically perfect intestinal anastomosis but still needs a human surgeon to open the abdomen, prepare the bowel for the procedure, tidy up, and close. I'm not sure that this is any different than when surgical staplers were introduced. This robot is simply making the operation easier and possibly more precise.

Surgeons will still be needed in case the robot makes a mistake like causing bleeding while placing a suture near the mesentery. If bleeding in that area is not promptly controlled, a large hematoma can develop and possibly compromise the blood supply to the anastomosis. And will the robot be able to decide who needs an operation and when to do it?

One worrisome byproduct of surgical stapling is that many graduates of residency programs within the last 15 or 20 years have little experience in performing a hand sewn bowel anastomosis. What will they do if the hospital runs out of staplers? Soon, I guess they could consult the (somewhat) autonomous robot.

I have written about automation and the erosion of surgical skills. This problem also affects pilots. I have also addressed the concept of  robots operating alone. I don't see it happening any time soon.

I think there will always be a need for surgeons. Even the smartest robot is going to have some trouble dealing with a trauma patient who is hypotensive.

The future will take care of itself. In the 1980s, people were concerned about the demise of general surgery. Opinion pieces with titles like “Will the general surgeon become extinct?” and “Is general surgery a dying specialty?” appeared in major journals like JAMA and the World Journal of Surgery.

Then in 1990, laparoscopic cholecystectomy opened the door to a whole new area of general surgery that no one had ever dreamed of.

Good luck with your studies and your surgical career.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Can a cop’s baton accidentally slip into a man’s anus?

I doubt it.

A French police officer has been charged with rape after a black man who was being arrested suffered severe anal injuries.

After witnessing an officer slap someone, the 22-year-old had allegedly approached a group of policemen. The victim claims he was handcuffed, called names, and beaten. He says his pants were lowered and he felt pain in his buttocks.

At the police station another officer noted that he was covered with blood. He was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with the anal trauma which required “major surgery” including a colostomy. The family was told incontinence may result.

Doctors said the injury had been caused by a police baton which had been forced into his anus.

The Washington Post quoted the findings of a police investigation: “The violent sodomy was accidental and occurred when the officer’s expandable baton happened to slip into the victim’s anus.”

According to another story, “a French police union spokesman said there was no evidence so far that ‘the truncheon was actually introduced’ into the victim's rectum. And if that actually happened, it was likely done ‘accidentally.’”

A third story said, “a lawyer for the officer charged with rape said ‘the blow had been carried out in a totally involuntary manner, without his being aware of any injury.’” The word “his” must be referring to the officer because I have no doubt the victim was quite aware.

Based on my 40+ years of experience as a surgeon, I can assure you the police version of the incident is highly implausible. A patient who does not wish to undergo a rectal examination by a physician with a gloved and lubricated index finger can easily prevent it from occurring by voluntarily contracting his anal sphincter and gluteus muscles.

I would imagine a healthy 22-year-old man would react in exactly the same way if a policeman’s baton “happened to slip” with the end anywhere near his anus.

The incident has sparked many protests in France and has been widely reported by news media. Of the several accounts I have read, not one has asked a surgeon to comment on the nature or possible cause of the injuries.

Bottom line: A police baton slipping into a man’s anus is about as likely as a man accidentally falling on a woman and penetrating her.

From International Business Times
Thanks to @Tosk59 for the tip on the International Business Times story.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Yet another new medical TV drama

“'The Resident’ follows an idealistic young doctor who begins his first day under the supervision of a tough, brilliant senior resident who pulls the curtain back on all of the good and evil in modern day medicine.” So says the article announcing Fox’s pilot for a new medical TV show.

As opposed to all the other medical dramas, this one features an idealistic young doctor and a tough, brilliant supervisor. How original.

I tweeted the show's premise and got several humorous replies prompting me to write this post.

There is no such thing as an original medical show. Original would be a resident sitting in front of a computer 75 percent of the time and then leaving the hospital in the middle of a great case because of work hour restrictions. While at home he plays video games for five straight hours.

Someone wondered if “The Resident” would find romance—possibly in a convenient storage closet. I wouldn’t know about that because I trained at a Catholic hospital.

Another asked if there would be a tough staff with soft hearts, a hospital administrator who put profit before patients, a second-generation physician who cracks under pressure, and a renegade doctor who breaks all the rules but saves the day.

What about a show with overworked, stressed, but oh-so-average attending physicians and idealistic, but basically inept residents?

I’d like to pitch an idea. It’s called “The Administrator” and follows an idealistic young deputy assistant junior vice president who begins his first day under the supervision of a tough, brilliant hospital CEO who pulls the curtain back on all of the evil and none of the good in modern day medicine.

Think of all the dramatic meetings involving committees, ad hoc committees, lean, six sigma, budgets, root cause analyses, public relations, whether to buy a third robot, and so much more. True to life, the administrators never leave the C-suite*.

*C-suite (def): A widely-used slang term collectively referring to a corporation's most important senior executives. C-Suite gets its name because top senior executives' titles tend to start with the letter C, for chief, as in chief executive officer, chief operating officer and chief information officer. [From Investopedia]

Thanks to the Twitter folks who contributed: @smootholdfart, @DrDes1970, @geekpharm, @JessicaDeMost, @DrMikeSimpson, @jsekharan, @mjaeckel

Monday, January 30, 2017

Caribbean medical schools: A look inside



Did you know that several Caribbean medical schools provide postgraduate premed courses so students can complete their science requirements? At least one school’s nearly year-long premed curriculum includes 8 hours per day of classroom work, rudimentary general chemistry and organic labs, and a physics lab with 40-year-old equipment. The fee is more than $30,000 cash, no loans. That's a lot to pay for courses that are not accredited and credits transferable only to other Caribbean schools.

The goal of these premed programs is to prepare students to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). However, some schools require only that applicants take the MCAT but do not reject anyone on the basis of their scores.

A former student said, “Little did I know that a [Caribbean school] acceptance was the equivalent of a lottery ticket. They actually attempted to weed us out of the small (and unaccredited) pre-med class! It took me a month to figure it out.” One of his professors told him the administration said not to pass everyone in the premed course into the first year of medical school.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

More about adhesions and postoperative pain

In November 2016, I wrote about adhesions and whether they are the cause of chronic abdominal pain. I and several surgeons who commented felt they weren't.

Some new information from the February 2017 issue of the journal Surgery is just in. A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial from The Netherlands was originally published in 2003 after one year of follow-up. At that time, there was no apparent benefit from an operation to lyse [divide] all adhesions laparoscopically in 52 patients compared to a placebo operation that involved performing only laparoscopy to assess the extent of adhesions in 48.

The current paper looked at outcomes 12 years after the original surgery was done. Follow-up was available for 73% of the patients—42 in the group who had adhesiolysis and 31 who had laparoscopy only.

The authors concluded, “Laparoscopic adhesiolysis was less beneficial than laparoscopy alone in the long term. Secondly, there appeared to be a powerful, long-lasting placebo effect of laparoscopy. Because adhesiolysis is associated with an increased risk of operative complications, avoiding this treatment may result in less morbidity and health care costs.”

Unfortunately the paper has a few flaws.

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Malpractice" from the viewpoint of a plaintiffs' attorney

Lawrence Schlachter is a neurosurgeon who after 23 years in practice, was forced to stop operating because of a hand injury. He went to law school, became a plaintiffs’ attorney, and wrote a book called “Malpractice.” Although it is intended for patients, physicians might want to read it to learn something about how a plaintiffs’ lawyer thinks.

I’m not surprised that Schlachter cites the heavily extrapolation-based Journal of Patient Safety study claiming 400,000 medical error-related deaths per year and the thoroughly debunked Makary study claiming 251,000 deaths per year due to medical error. He does a little extrapolating of his own and comes up with 562,000 patients per year.

I agree with Schlachter about many issues. He says the best way to avoid becoming a victim of negligence is to take good care of yourself. If you need to be hospitalized, aggressively be your own advocate or have a relative or friend do it. You cannot assume that mistakes will not happen.

Monday, January 9, 2017

How can we instill more confidence in our graduating chief residents?

For over six years, I have been writing about problems in surgical education. My seventh blog post ever was about the negative impact of changes in surgical residency training.

In that post, I cited a residency program director who felt that rules imposed by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) resulted in excessive supervision of residents who never had a chance to operate independently. Many feel that this is a major factor resulting in 80% of graduating chiefs opting to do one or more years of post residency fellowship.

Excessive supervision continues in 2016. In his presidential address to the Southwestern Surgical Congress, John R. Potts, III, M.D., a former surgical program director and now Senior Vice President of Surgical Accreditation for the ACGME, had a similar observation. He said, “I have personally encountered individuals finishing general surgery residency programs who have never completed any operation—regardless how simple and basic—without an attending surgeon being with them throughout that operation.” [Emphasis by Dr. Potts]

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The occasional surgeon

On the Forbes website, Dr. Robert Pearl writes

"When I was selected to become CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, the Permanente half of Kaiser Permanente, the time required for my responsibilities forced me to give up doing surgery on a regular basis. But every year since then, during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I have returned to the operating room. The timing works, as the leadership demands become minimal and it’s unlikely I’ll suddenly be needed to fly to another part of the country. It’s a magical time for me, contrasting dramatically with my world as CEO. For several hours each day, my focus is not on millions of Kaiser Permanente members—or, for that matter, on all the complexities of healthcare policy, politics and strategy—but, rather, on a single patient at a time."

Dr. Pearl is a Yale medical school graduate who trained at Stanford and has been board-certified in plastic surgery since 1979. The American Board of Plastic Surgery did not start requiring maintenance of certification every 10 years until 1995.

We do not know what specific surgical procedures he does during his magical time. Is he removing moles, performing reconstructive surgery, or doing facelifts and nose jobs? Do his patients know that he only operates a few days per year? What happens if a wound complication requiring revision surgery arises? Who follows up his patients?