Monday, January 22, 2018

"The Resident"

A new medical drama with the same old characters.

The show opened with the chief of surgery in the middle of a rather bloody open, not laparoscopic, appendectomy.

The circulating nurse started taking selfies with her phone; the anesthesiologist was distracted; the patient started moving; blood spurted all over the surgeon.


According to a nurse, the patient lost 2 liters of blood in 20 seconds.

What artery, other than the aorta, could he possibly have cut that would bleed so much? The chief of surgery just stood there. I yelled at the TV, “Put pressure on it for God’s sake.“

Finally, they started CPR and the surgeon seemed to be packing the wound.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Facial exercises to make you look younger? I don't think so.

One would think a study covered by the New York Times would be both scientifically valid and important. Apparently, that is not always the case.

Under the headline “Facial Exercises May Make You Look 3 Years Younger” is a story about a research letter published in JAMA Dermatology. The Times article concludes with a quote from the lead author, “But for now, it is reasonable to consider contorting and pinching up your face if you wish to try to look younger.”

Is it reasonable? Let’s see if this 1½ page research letter proved its point.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Is chronic pain after inguinal hernia repair a big problem?

Yesterday one of my twitter followers posted this:
He was referring to a paper in the British Journal of Surgery that said 15.2% of patients who had inguinal herniorrhaphies complained of severe chronic pain one year after the surgery. Open hernia repairs caused significantly more chronic pain than did endoscopic total extraperitoneal [TEP] repairs, but the reoperation rate was significantly higher for TEP procedures.

The study included almost 23,000 patients and was based on data from the Swedish Hernia Registry and a questionnaire sent to the patients one year after their initial hernia operation. Pain was rated on a scale of 1 to 7 and was considered chronic if it was present for more than 3 months and interfered with daily activities.

The recurrence rate for the 18,000 patients who had open anterior mesh repair was 3.4% compared to 23.3% for the 2688 who had TEP repairs.

The authors concluded that the trade-off for less pain was an increased recurrence rate. Only 232 [1.39%] of the 1666 patients with recurrent hernias had undergone repeat herniorrhaphy.

Some of the comments on Twitter were as follows:


When I was in private practice in the early 1980s, I invited all of my post-op hernia patients to return to my office for yearly follow-up at no charge.

One day, a nice elderly gentleman was sitting in the exam room when I walked in. After an exchange of pleasantries, I asked him how his hernia repair was doing. He said he had no problems and was quite happy.

I had him stand up and when he lifted his gown, I saw a softball-sized recurrent hernia. Ever since then, I have not trusted any studies in which follow-up was not done in person.

Based on my experience, the recurrence rate after groin hernia repairs could even be higher than the Swedish study reported.

The incidence of chronic pain after inguinal herniorrhaphy may depend on how surgeons follow their patients.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

My top 7 posts of 2017

Here are my top seven blog posts of 2017. The blog has been viewed more than 3 million times. Thanks for reading and commenting.

This year’s most viewed post and the all-time leader since I started blogging in 2010 was “Fatal internal jugular vein cannulation by a misplaced NG tube” with over 109,000 page views. I don’t know why this post was so popular. It was linked to by a Facebook nursing site which accounted for the bulk of the views.

My story about medical school graduates who are unable to obtain further training, “The lost sheep: They’re MDs but can’t find residency positions,” was viewed more than 8000 times.

What to do when a normal-looking appendix is found at surgery for appendicitis” was a review of some literature on the topic. I also briefly discussed differences in the way appendicitis is diagnosed in different countries and the results of a Twitter poll of surgeons.

The opioid epidemic: What was the Joint Commission’s role?” was a refutation of the Joint Commission’s attempt to absolve itself of responsibility for the current crisis using its own documents.

In July, I blogged about “The problem of ‘copy and paste’ in electronic records.” The percentage of original thought in electronic progress notes is remarkably low. The problem of “note bloat” is real.

My “Brief summary of 2017 residency match data” found that over 7100 active applicants in the match did not secure residency positions. This is an ongoing and very real issue with no obvious solution in sight.

Finally, my review of the television show “The Good Doctor” was a detailed look at all the implausible medical scenarios featured. Despite my reservations about the program, it became popular. The viewing public doesn’t know the medicine isn't accurate and doesn’t care. I did point out that the actor portraying the lead character, an autistic surgical resident, was excellent. That opinion was shared by many reviewers.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Chronic shortage of training sites worries medical schools

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) says many of its members are worried about a shortage of training sites for students and residents.

The AAMC’s 2016 Medical School Enrollment Survey found that 80% of schools were concerned about the number of available clinical training sites. There were also issues with the numbers of primary care and specialty preceptors.

The graphic below shows that these problems are not new, but in general seem to be worsening. [Click on the figure to enlarge it.]

The situation is exacerbated by increasing competition for clinical sites from osteopathic schools, offshore medical schools, and nurse practitioner and physician assistant schools.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The case against live tweeting

“Live tweeting” of conference presentations continues to be popular. The practice is defined as posting one or more tweets attempting to tell the Twitter audience what the presenter has to say. It is touted as a great way to convey information to those who are unable to attend the conference.

I’m not a fan of live tweeting, and here’s why.

The live tweets are also supposedly used as a substitute for notetaking. I have blogged about some of the studies showing retention of information is better when notes are taken on paper.

Many of the tweets are incomplete and/or incomprehensible because the description of them has to fit within 280 characters—at most two or maybe three sentences.

Good speakers will use short bullet points and verbally explain what they mean. This can be difficult to accomplish in a tweet.

Papers presented at meetings have not been peer-reviewed. [Okay, I understand that peer review is not perfect, but it is the current gold standard for evaluating published medical literature.] Some people may not know this, but program committees can only judge what is in an abstract—which can be misleading. The submitted abstract is usually worded to attract the attention of those deciding which papers will be accepted. When the paper is presented at the meeting, it sometimes only faintly resembles what was contained in the submitted abstract.

People who rely on live tweets for medical news assume the live tweeter understands what has been presented and is able to coherently communicate it. I worry that snippets of misinformation may be widely disseminated.

What about impressions. Some organizations brag about their combined meeting tweets having 240 million impressions. That doesn’t mean 75% of citizens in the US have seen a tweet. Impressions are simply an index of how many twitter accounts could possibly have seen a tweet. Most tweets are not at all. I have almost 18,000 Twitter followers. I average about 2000 impressions per tweet. Most of my tweets get fewer than 10% engagementsdefined as as clicking on a link, expanding detail, likes, and retweets.

Photographs of PowerPoint slides tend to be from bad angles and are often blurry. Here are some examples. Identifying information has been removed to protect the guilty.




The prosecution rests.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Residents, duty hours, and respect

The following is an email I received.

I, a surgical resident, would like to ask for help navigating conversations about resident duty hours. You had a very strongly worded post on the subject. My intent is not to contradict your perspective, but perhaps get and give some insight on this question. First, I wish to show you the conversation with a surgeon "fossil" as I experience it:

Fossil: "In my day we worked __ many hours and operated all night and never slept or ate and were glad of it. It made me the surgeon I am today. You will never have this privilege."

Me: "Wow, I agree. You had it much harder." Meanwhile, I am thinking: