Researchers find there's nothing new under the sun -- or the iceCertain medical conditions that we think of as modern might not be so, according to an international team of researchers.
Using x-rays and CT, an investigative team comprising scientists and physicians from Austria, Italy, and the U.S. examined the remains of a man who spent more than 5000 years entombed in ice in the Austrian Alps. They found that the "Iceman," as the mummified corpse was dubbed, had suffered from medical conditions generally linked to postindustrial-era lifestyles.
Perhaps the most outstanding finding was the detection of calcifications where the Iceman's arteries should have been, suggesting that he might have had cardiovascular disease, said principal investigator Dr. William A. Murphy Jr. The group's findings are described in the March issue of Radiology.
"Look at the effort we go through, like exercise and diet and trying not to smoke and taking medication to prevent cardiovascular disease. (The Iceman) didn't have any of this stuff available, and his diet was not the diet that we have in our modern industrialized societies," said Murphy, a professor of radiology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
The researchers determined that the Iceman had suffered from certain ailments often seen in people today, including arthritis and degenerative disk disease. His had anatomical features identical to those of modern-day humans. Most strikingly, he had recovered from injuries and chronic conditions that many people currently die from, Murphy said.
Rather than shedding light on today's medical problems, these findings puzzle scientists and physicians. But the questions emerging from this investigation may yield answers that will help physicians better understand and treat many diseases.
"It's a very complicated set of issues. But while we learn more, we'll understand more," Murphy said.
Whole Body CT Screening:
Spectrum of Findings and Recommendations
Purpose: To describe the spectrum of findings and recommendations reported with whole-body computed tomography (CT) screening
Methods and Materials: The radiographic reports of 1200 patients who underwent whole-body CT screening (chest , abdomen) at a stand-alone, for-profit facility from January to June 2000, were reviewed. Patients agreed to be part of research studies. All findings, conclusions and recommendations were recorded. Scans were performed with Electron Beam Tomography at 6mm slices, without oral or intravenous contrast. All scans were interpreted by experienced radiologists.
Results: Of 1200 patients, 777 were men and 423 women. Ages ranged from 22 to 85 years old (mean: 54.5). 911 patients (76%) were self-referred. 289 (24%) were physician-referred. 1043 (87%) of patients had at least one finding in the chest or abdomen with a total of 3,359 findings (average: 3.2 per patient). Findings were described more often in the lungs, kidneys and liver. 388 (32%) of patients had at least one recommendation, most commonly follow-up CT scan (2 mo-3yr)(124), CT with IV contrast (91), other imaging studies(58), and clinical correlation(79).
Conclusion: Whole body CT screening detected findings in a large number of patients(87%), most commonly in the lungs, kidneys and liver. Most findings were benign requiring no further evaluation; however, 32% had recommendations requiring additional imaging(66%) or clinical correlation. The cost of these recommendations versus the benefit is uncertain and requires further investigation.
There is powerful evidence to support whole-body CT screening as a beneficial practice that has a measurable, positive impact on the lives of patients, according to Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki, a prominent radiologist known for his support of CT screening. But although you can make an argument in favor of ethical whole-body scans, it may be harder to make a buck at it, he said.
Whole-body CT has promising benefits for coronary artery disease, lung cancer, and colon cancer, Brant-Zawadzki said. It is capable of detecting cancer at an early stage, and early detection and treatment is a key factor in improving the survival rate for various diseases.
But starting a whole-body CT screening center requires radiologists to fundamentally change the way they practice by becoming much more involved in patient management. And the economics of whole-body scanning are another hurdle, with new imaging centers entering the market every day, cutting prices and profit margins.
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