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Wed, 19.06.24

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February 2024
Shani Ben Shetrit LLB LLM MA, Jamal Daghash MD, Daniel Sperling SJD BA (Philosophy)

In recent years, we have been experiencing a technological revolution, which signifies an ethical and societal transformation. Artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies have gradually permeated all aspects of life and solidified their position. Within this context, the emergence of these technologies offers new opportunities in the medical field, including palliative care, which is aimed at alleviating suffering and improving the quality of life for terminally ill patients and their families. In Israel, the Dying Patient Act of 2005 (the law), which promotes values such as the sanctity of life and individual autonomy, allows terminally ill patients to determine their preferred treatment, and withhold life-saving treatment under certain circumstances. The law represents a significant step toward improving care for terminally ill patients, reducing pain and suffering, and respecting the patient's wishes and worldviews in their final days. However, the practical implementation of the law has encountered numerous challenges, ranging from lack of familiarity among doctors and healthcare professionals and the requirement to determining life expectancy to fulfilling the law's purpose. These challenges are associated with ethical, cultural, and religious perspectives. In this article, we describe how AI-based technologies hold immense potential in applying the law and providing palliative care based on their predictive capabilities, prognostic accuracy, and optimization of treatment as well as communication between patients and healthcare providers. However, as an innovative, developing, and complex technology, it is crucial not to overlook the ethical, societal, and legal challenges inherent in implementing and using AI-based technologies in the context of palliative care.

August 2023
Hila Nochomovitz MD, Shlomo Berliner MD, Ori Elkayam MD PhD, David Zeltser MD, Itzhak Shapira MD, Ori Rogowski MD, Smadar Gertel PhD, Shani Shenhar-Tsarfaty PhD, Victoria Furer MD

Background: The parasympathetic system and its main neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, contributes to homeostasis of inflammation. Cholinergic dysregulation is thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of inflammatory rheumatic diseases. Cholinesterase activity in patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) has not been investigated.

Objectives: To compare the cholinesterase activity in patients with PsA and immunocompetent controls and to explore the correlation between cholinergic status (CS) and PsA disease activity.

Methods: Serum acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and total cholinesterase activity were measured in patients with PsA (n=88) and matched controls (n=84). Cholinergic activity before and 3–6 months after the initiation of a biologic treatment was evaluated in seven patients with PsA.

Results: The levels of AChE and CS were similar in both PsA patients and controls. PsA patients treated with biologics had significantly lower levels of AChE and CS compared to patients treated with non-biologics: 447.4 vs. 526 substrate hydrolyzed/min/ml, P = 0.005, and 1360.9 vs. 1536, P = 0.029, respectively. We found an association between C-reactive protein levels, AChE activity (r = 0.291, P = 0.008), and cholinergic status (r = 0.247, P = 0.026) in patients with PsA but not in controls. No correlation between AChE activity, cholinergic status, and the indices of PsA disease activity was found. After initiating or switching biologic treatment in 7 patients, AChE levels remained stable.

Conclusions: We demonstrated similar cholinesterase activity in patients with psoriatic arthritis and controls, highlighting a potential effect of biologic treatment on cholinergic activity in patients with PsA.

Ori Wand MD, Oded Kimhi MD, Lilach Israeli-Shani MD, David Shitrit MD

Biological therapies with monoclonal antibodies have revolutionized the management of many inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Combining biological treatments is very rarely indicated and may theoretically result in severe adverse effects, specifically, an increased tendency toward infectious diseases. We present the case of a woman in whom combination therapy with canakinumab for familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) and mepolizumab for chronic eosinophilic pneumonia was successfully employed.

May 2023
Shani Sultani MD, Nerel Cohen MD, Matan Fischer MD

Sulfonylureas have been used to treat patients with diabetes for the last 80 years. The main side effect of this drug class is hypoglycemia, which might be severe and protracted. With the emergence of new medications with improved safety and better efficacy in preventing diabetes complications and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, the use of these agents is waning.

Sulfonylureas are historically classified into two generations. The generation first includes drugs such as tolbutamide and chlorpropamide, which are no longer used. The second generation includes glibenclamide and glimepiride, which have different pharmacokinetic properties and active metabolites.

In this case report, we present a patient with diabetes and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) who developed prolonged hypoglycemia following the unauthorized use of a food supplement containing the first-generation sulfonylurea - tolbutamide.

January 2023
Matan Elkan MD, Yarden Zohar MD, Shani Zilberman-Itskovich MD, Ronit Zaidenstein MD, Ronit Koren MD

Background: Higher body mass index (BMI) has been shown to be a protective factor from mortality in sepsis patients. Yet, whether this effect is different in the very elderly is currently unknown.

Objective: To investigate the relationship between BMI and sepsis outcomes in patients older and younger than 80 years of age.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of consecutive patients admitted with sepsis to Shamir Medical Center, Israel, was conducted. We compared patients older than and younger than 80 years of age with a BMI higher and lower than 25 kg/m² for hospitalization outcomes.

Results: Patients older than 80 years presented with multiple co-morbidities compared to younger patients, but with no difference between BMI groups. Similarly, hospitalization outcomes of functional deterioration, discharge to long-term care facilities, and readmission were not significantly different between BMI groups in the same age category. Mortality was significantly different between BMI groups in patients older than 80 years of age, with higher mortality in BMI < 25 kg/m²: in-hospital mortality (23.4% vs. 14.9%, P < 0.001), 30-day mortality (27.6% vs. 17.9%, P < 0.001), and 90-day mortality (43.4% vs. 28.9%, P < 0.001). This difference was not significant between the groups younger than 80 years old. On logistic regression, BMI over 25 kg/m² was protective in all mortality categories. Nevertheless, there was no significant interaction between age over 80 years to BMI over 25 kg/m² in all mortality outcomes.

Conclusions: Among patients hospitalized with sepsis, higher BMI is a protective factor against mortality in both elderly and younger patients.

December 2021
Galit Hirsh-Yechezkel PhD, Angela Chetrit MHA, Sivan Ben Avraham MSc, Abed Agbarya MD, Alexander Yakobson MD, Noam Asna MD, Gil Bar-Sela MD, Irit Ben-Aharon MD PhD, Noa Efrat Ben-Baruch MD, Raanan Berger MD PhD, Ronen Brenner MD, Maya Gottfried MD, Shani Paluch-Shimon MBBS MSc, Raphael Pfeffer MD, Aron Popovtzer MD, Larisa Ryvo MD, Valeriya Semenisty MD, Ayelet Shai MD PhD, Katerina Shulman MD, Jamal Zidan MD, and Ido Wolf MD

Background: The increased susceptibility of cancer patients to coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) infections and complications calls for special precautions while treating cancer patients during COVID-19 pandemics. Thus, oncology departments have had to implement a wide array of prevention measures.

Objectives: To address issues associated with cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic and to assess the implementation of measures aimed at containment of COVID-19 diffusion while allowing continuation of quality cancer care.

Methods: A national survey among oncology departments in Israel was conducted between 12 April 2020 and 14 April 2020. Eighteen heads of hospital-based oncology departments completed a self-report questionnaire regarding their institute's preparedness for treatment of cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results: In this national survey, prevention measures against COVID-19 spread were taken prior to patients' arrival and at arrival or while staying in the departments. Most participants (78–89%) reported using a quick triage of patients and caregivers prior to their entrance to the oncology units, limiting the entrance of caregivers, and reducing unnecessary visits to the clinic. Switching to oral therapies rather than intravenous ones when possible was considered by 82% and shortage in personal protective equipment was reported by five (28%) heads of oncology departments. Some differences between large and small/medium sized medical centers were observed regarding issues related to COVID-19 containment measures and changes in treatment.

Conclusions: Oncology departments in Israel were able to prepare and adapt their services to guidelines and requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic with little harm to their treatment capacity

September 2021
Michal Shani MD MPH, Doron Comaneshter PhD, and Alex Lustman MD MPH

Background: Oral anticoagulants (OAC) reduce the risk for stroke and death from all causes in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF)

Objective: To explore adherence rates of OAC among patients with NVAF in long-term use in a real-world setting and to examine patient characteristics associated with good adherence.

Methods: We conducted a population-based cohort study with members of Clalit Health Services, Israel. All patients aged ≥ 30 years with a diagnosis of NVAF before 2016 who were treated with OAC were included. We included patients who filled at least one prescription per year in the three consecutive years 2016–2018. We analyzed all prescriptions that were filled for the medications from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. We considered purchasing of at least nine monthly prescriptions during 2017 as good medication adherence.

Results: We identified 26,029 patients with NVAF who were treated with OAC; 10,284 (39.5%) were treated with apixaban, 6321 (24.3%) with warfarin, 6290 (24.1%) with rivaroxaban, and 3134 (12.0%) with dabigatran. Rates of good medication adherence were 88.9% for rivaroxaban, 84.9% for apixaban, 83.6% for dabigatran, and 55.8% for warfarin (P < 0.0001). Advanced age was associated with higher adherence rates (P < 0.001). Socioeconomic status was not associated with medication adherence. Good adherence with OAC was associated with lower low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and glucose levels.

Conclusions: Adherence rates to OAC in chronic use among patients with chronic NAVF are high. Investing in OAC adherence may have a wider health impact than expected.

December 2020
Daniel Erez MD, Lilach Israeli-Shani MD, Gali Epstein Shochet PhD, Daniel A. King MD, Mahmood Abu-akel MD, Zamir Dovrish MD, and David Shitrit MD

Background: Primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP) tends to occur in young adults without underlying lung diseases and is usually followed by limited symptoms, while secondary spontaneous pneumothorax (SSP) is a complication of a pre-existing lung disease. Surprisingly, for such common conditions, there is a considerable inconsistency regarding management guidelines.

Objectives: To evaluate the risk factors for spontaneous pneumothoraxes and to summarize outcomes and complications based on our clinical experience.

Methods: This retrospective study group was comprised of 250 consecutive patients older than 18 years of age who were diagnosed with spontaneous pneumothorax and hospitalized at the Meir Medical Center (2004–2017). Data on demographic characteristics, indicating symptoms, chest X-rays, and chest computed tomography (CT) results were collected. Our experience and outcomes were then compared to a large multicenter study.

Results: Most of the patients were male (85%) and past or current smokers; 69% presented with PSP, while the rest were SSP. No occupational relation was noted. About 55% of the cases presented with a moderate or large pneumothorax (over 1/3 hemithorax). Most patients (56%) required chest tube drainage and 20% undergone surgery. Nearly 10% presented with a recurrent pneumothorax with the mean time to recurrence being 11 ± 20 days. Although the length of hospital stay of patients that underwent surgery was the longest (P < 0.001) for both PSP and SSP, the recurrence rate was actually reduced, suggesting some benefit for the surgical treatment option.

Conclusions: Our experience showed that the traditional approach to the PSP treatment should be further considered, as previously suggested.

October 2020
Emil Abd El-Qader MD, Lilach Israeli-Shani MD, Gali Epstein Shochet PhD, Zamir Dovrish MD, Daniel A. King MD, David Dahan MD, Ori Wand and David Shitrit MD

Background: Patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience frequent exacerbations and need to be hospitalized, resulting in an economic and social burden. Although data exist regarding reasons of frequent hospitalizations, there is no data available about the impact on the length of stay (LOS).

Objectives: To characterize the causes of prolonged hospitalizations in COPD patients.

Methods: A retrospective study was conducted of patients who were diagnosed and treated in the pulmonary department for severe COPD exacerbations. All patient demographic data and medical history were collected. Data regarding the disease severity were also collected (including Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease [GOLD] criteria, pulmonologist follow-up, prior hospitalizations, and LOS).

Results: The study comprised 200 patients, average age 69.5 ± 10.8 years, 61% males. Of these patients, 89 (45%) were hospitalized for up to 4 days, 111 (55%) for 5 days or more, and 34 (17%) for more than 7 days. Single patients had longer LOS compared with married patients (48% vs. 34%, P = 0.044). Multivariate analysis showed that the number of prior hospital admissions in the last year was a predictor of LOS (P = 0.038, odds ratio [OR] = 0.807, 95% confidence interval [95%CI] = 0.659–0.988), as well as the use of non-invasive respiratory support by bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) during the hospitalization (P = 0.024, OR = 4.662, 95%CI = 1.229–17.681).

Conclusions: Fewer previous hospitalizations due to COPD exacerbations and the need for non-invasive respiratory support by BiPAP were found as predictors of longer LOS.

August 2020
Shani Dahan MD, Gad Segal MD, Itai Katz MD, Tamer Hellou MD, Michal Tietel MD, Gabriel Bryk MD, Howard Amital MD, Yehuda Shoenfeld MD FRCP MaACR and Amir Dagan MD

Background: Ferritin, the cellular protein storage for iron, has emerged as a key molecule in the immune system, orchestrating the cellular defense against inflammation. At the end of 2019, the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) rapidly spread throughout China and other countries around the world, resulting in a viral pandemic.

Objectives: To evaluate the correlation between ferritin and disease severity in coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we obtained clinical and laboratory data regarding 39 hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 from two hospitals in Israel.

Results: A significant increase in ferritin levels was demonstrated in patients with moderate and severe disease, compared to patients with mild disease (P = 0.006 and 0.005, respectively). Severe patients had significantly higher levels of ferritin (2817.6 ng/ml) than non-severe patients (708.6 ng/ml) P = 0.02.

Conclusions: In this preliminary cross-sectional study, elevated ferritin levels were shown to correlate with disease severity in 39 patients from Israel with confirmed COVID-19 infection. Our results further strengthen the hypothesis that severe COVID-19 disease might be due to an underlying dysregulated hyperimmune response. In order to identify these patients early and prioritized resources, we believe that all patients with COVID-19 should be screened for hyperferritinemia.

January 2020
Michal Shani MD MPH, Elisha Ozan MD, Yafit Duani MD, Andre Keren MD, Orna Gootman RN, Doron Komaneshter PhD and Israel Gotsman MD

Background: Heart failure centers with specialized nurse-supervised management programs have been proposed to improve prognosis. The Heart Failure Center in Beit Shemesh, Israel, is located within a large primary care facility. The specialist team supervised the managememt of patients both within the frame of the center and while they were hospitalized.

Objectives: To evaluate the health services utilization by heart failure patients treated at a heart failure center and their clinical outcome.

Methods: In this retrospective study, we compared the clinical outcome of patients treated at a heart failure center to patients who received the standard care in 2013–2014. The clinical outcome included primary care visits, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and death.

Results: The study comprised 430 heart failure patients; 82 were treated at the heart failure center and 348 under standard care. At baseline, no significant differences were seen in clinical parameters between the groups. Healthcare utilization was higher among the study group. No significant changes in healthcare utilization were found. During follow-up, patients treated in a heart failure center were more likely to get recommended heart failure medications. Mortality was significantly lower in patients treated in the heart failure center compared with those receiving standard care 3.6% vs. 24%, respectively (P = 0.001), hazard ratio 0.19, 95% confidence interval 0.06–0.62, P = 0.005.

Conclusions: Joint management of heart failure by primary clinics and a specialized community heart failure center reduced mortality. There was no decrease in healthcare utilizations among heart failure center patients, despite the reduction in mortality.

March 2019
Ortal Fallek Boldes BSc, Shani Dahan MD, Yahel Segal MD, Dana Ben-Ami Shor MD, Robert K. Huber MD, Iris Barshack MD, Yuval Horowitz MD, Gad Segal MD and Amir Dagan MD

Background: Pericardial biopsies are rarely performed during the diagnosis and management of pericardial diseases. The circumstances and clinical profile of patients undergoing pericardial biopsies are largely uncharacterized.

Objectives: To examine the circumstances in which pericardial biopsies are obtained and to evaluate their diagnostic yield.

Methods: We studied a total of 100 cases (71% males, mean age 60.8 years, range 8.1–84.5 years) of surgically resected pericardium specimens obtained from 2000 to 2015 at Sheba Medical Center, the largest medical center in Israel. Patients were classified into groups according to four major histological etiologies: idiopathic pericarditis, constrictive pericarditis, malignant pericarditis, and post-cardiac injury syndrome (PCIS). The clinical history and course, laboratory, echocardiography, and histological results were reviewed retrospectively.

Results: Causes of pericarditis according to histological definitions included idiopathic pericarditis (29%), constrictive pericarditis (29%), PCIS (9%), and malignant pericarditis (26%). Overall sensitivity of the pericardial biopsy in patients with malignancy was 57.7%. During the study period, we found a trend toward an increased number of biopsies due to constrictive pericarditis and PCIS, along with a decrease in the number of biopsies performed in patients with malignant or idiopathic pericarditis. The diagnosis following biopsy did not change for any of the patients.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest a low diagnostic yield from pericardial biopsies, especially in malignant pericarditis. This conclusion, along with novel therapies, resulted in the infrequent use of pericardial biopsy in recent years.

Daniel Erez MD, Matthew Koslow MD, Gali Epstein Shochet PhD, Zamir Dovrish M, Lilach Israeli-Shani MD, David Dahan MD, Daniel King MD, and David Shitrit MD

Background: Pulmonary embolism (PE) is the third most frequently occurring cardiovascular disease. However, the clinical presentation in patients with PE is variable.

Objectives: To evaluate the prevalence of radiological findings detected in contrast-enhanced computed tomography angiography (CTA) and their significance in patients with PE; and to assess whether the CTA findings differed in patients receiving tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) therapy from those who did not.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed CTA scans of 186 patients diagnosed with acute PE. Incidental findings on CTA scan were assessed, including mediastinal and parenchymal lymph nodes, pleural effusion, space-occupying lesions, consolidations, emphysema, and pericardial effusion.

Results: Patients receiving tPA (19.9%) were less likely to have pleural effusion (29.7% vs. 50.3%, P = 0.024). Other CTA findings did not differ between the tPA and non-tPA groups, including lung infiltrates (40.5% vs. 38.9, P = 0.857), space-occupying lesions (5.4% vs. 6.7%, P = 1), pericardial effusion (8.1% vs. 8.7%, P = 1), emphysema (21.6% vs. 17.4%, P = 0.557), lung (18.9% vs. 24.2%, P = 0.498), and mediastinal ( 24.3% vs. 25.5%, P = 0.883) lymph nodes, respectively.

Conclusion: The prevalence of pleural effusion (unilateral or bilateral) was higher in patients not treated with tPA. Therefore, in patients with a borderline condition, the presence of pleural effusion could support the decision not to give tPA treatment.

October 2018
Howard S. Oster MD PhD, Shani Svorai-Litvak MD, Ilya Kirgner MD, Albert Kolomansky MD, Robert S. Siegel MD and Moshe Mittelman MD

Background: With advances in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), patient cohorts from different time periods might be different.

Objectives: To compare presentation and outcomes between two cohorts.

Methods: Data were collected from George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA 1986–1987 (DC), and Tel Aviv Medical Center, Israel 1999–2009 (TA).

Results: The study comprised 227 patients (139 TA, 88 DC). TA patients were older (75.4 ± 9.8 vs. 63.8 ± 14.3 years, P < 0.001) and had more cardiovascular diseases (56.8% vs. 14.8%, P < 0.001), fewer cytopenias (1.67 ± 0.82 vs. 2.0 ± 0.93, P = 0.003), and lower mean corpuscular volume (94.3 ± 9.9 fl vs. 100.5 ± 15.3 fl, P < 0.001). Hemoglobin, leukocyte, neutrophil, and platelet counts were similar. More TA patients had dysplasias. Bone marrow cellularity and cytogenetics were similar, but more TA patients had blasts < 5% (73.4% vs. 50.6%, P = 0.003). More TA patients had early French-American-British (FAB) disease (66.9% vs. 40.9%, P < 0.001) and lower risk disease per International Prognostic Scoring System (81% vs. 50%, P < 0.001). The 5 year survival (5YS) of TA patients was not significantly greater (62% vs. 55%). 5YS by FAB was also slightly greater for TA patients (77% vs. 65% for early FAB; 43% vs. 37% for advanced FAB, P > 0.05).

Conclusions: Although patients diagnosed with MDS at a later period were older and had more cardiovascular co-morbidities, they had fewer cytopenias, tended to have earlier disease, and had minimally greater, but not significant, 5YS.

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