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עמוד בית
Tue, 16.07.24

February 2008

T. Brosh-Nissimov, O. Havkin, N. Davidovitch L. Poles and C. Shapira

The lethal poisoning of Alexander Litvinenco with the radioactive element polonium-210, and the risk that many civilians (including Israeli citizens) who were in the same location in London at the same time were exposed to radiation, was an unprecedented event in the western world. This was only the second known death due to 210Po[1], a natural alpha radiation-emitting element. A task team was created to handle the event. The team comprised representatives from the Ministry of Health's advisory committee for radiological events (which includes the Israel Defense Force, the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and the Ministry of Environmental Protection), the Public Health Services Central District, and a public relations expert. Forty-seven people were located and underwent an epidemiological inquiry, and urine samples for detection of 210Po were sent abroad to a specialized laboratory. The radiotoxicological results were analyzed and evaluated by the expert team and follow-up recommendations were made. This unfamiliar and potentially stressful scenario was handled successfully by a multi-organizational multidisciplinary task team. The joint work of the task team was a real-life "exercise" simulating a radiological event in Israel. This team has recommended further evaluation of various vital missions in the event of any possible future radiological event, with special emphasis on a proactive communication approach to the media and the public.

[1] 210Po = polonium-210

Original Articles
A Shiyovich, I. Munchak, J. Zelingher, A. Grosbard and A. Katz

Background: Syncope is a common clinical problem that often remains undiagnosed despite extensive and expensive diagnostic evaluation.

Objectives: To assess the diagnostic evaluation, costs and prognosis of patients hospitalized for syncope in a tertiary referral center according to discharge diagnosis.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of patients with a diagnosis of syncope discharged from a tertiary referral center in 1999. In addition, mortality data were obtained retrospectively a year after discharge for each patient.

Results: The study group comprised 376 patients. Discharge etiologies were as follows: vasovagal 26.6%, cardiac 17.3%, neurological 4.3%, metabolic 0.5%, unexplained 47.3%, and other 4%. A total of 345 patients were admitted to the internal medicine department, 28 to the intensive cardiac care unit, and 3 to the neurology department. Cardiac and neurological tests were performed more often than other tests, with a higher yield in patients with cardiac and neurological etiologies respectively. The mean evaluation cost was 11,210 ± 8133 shekels, and was higher in the ICCU[1] than in internal medicine wards (19,210 ± 11,855 vs. 10,443 ± 7314 shekels, respectively; P = 0.0015). Mean in-hospital stay was 4.9 ± 4.2 days, which was longer in the ICCU than in medicine wards (7.2 ± 5.6 vs. 4.6 ± 3.5 days, respectively; P = 0.024). Short-term mortality rates (30 days after discharge) and long-term mortality rates (1 year after discharge) were 1.9% and 8.8% respectively, and differed according to discharge etiology. LTM[2] rates were significantly higher in patients discharged with cardiac, neurological and unknown etiologies (not for vasovagal), compared with the general population of Israel (1 year mortality rate for the age-adjusted [65 years] general population = 2.2%). The LTM rate was higher in patients discharged with a cardiac etiology than in those with a non-cardiac etiology (15.4% vs. 7.4%, P = 0.04). Higher short and long-term mortality rates were associated with higher evaluation costs.

Conclusions: Hospitalization in a tertiary referral center for syncope is associated with increased mortality for most etiologies (except vasovagal), cardiac more than non-cardiac. Despite high costs of inpatient evaluation, associated with more diagnostic tests, longer in-hospital stay and higher mortality rates, nearly half of the patients were discharged undiagnosed. Outpatient evaluation should be considered when medically possible.

[1] ICCU = Intensive Cardiac Care Unit

[2] LTM = long-term mortality

O. Amir, H. Paz, R. Ammar, N. Yaniv J.E. Schliamser and B.S. Lewis
Background: Serum natriuretic peptide levels are useful diagnostic and prognostic markers in patients with acute decompensated heart failure, but have been little used to stratify urgency of treatment in the outpatient situation.

Objectives: To examine the use of natriuretic peptide to guide priority of patient referral to a heart failure center.

Methods: We analyzed data from 70 consecutive patients with chronic heart failure (NYHA class 2-4) referred for first evaluation in a specialized outpatient heart failure center. Serum NT-proBNP[1] was measured at the initial patient visit. We examined correlates and predictive value of mid- and upper tertile NT-proBNP for mortality in comparison with other known prognostic indicators using univariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis.

Results: Mortality at 6 months was 26.0% in patients with upper tertile (> 1958 pg/ml) NT-proBNP, 8.7% in the middle tertile group and 0% in the lowest tertile (P = 0.017). Patients with upper tertile serum NT-proBNP levels (group 3) had lower left ventricular ejection fraction, were more often in atrial fibrillation (P = 0.04) and more often had renal failure (P = 0.03). Age-adjusted logistic regression analysis identified upper tertile serum NT-proBNP level as the strongest independent predictor of 6 month mortality with a sixfold risk of early death (adjusted odds ratio 6.08, 95% confidence interval 1.58–47.13, P = 0.04). NT-proBNP was a more powerful predictor of prognosis than ejection fraction and other traditional outcome markers.

Conclusions: In heart failure patients referred to an outpatient specialized heart failure center, an upper tertile NT-proBNP level identified patients at high risk for mortality. A single high > 550 pg/ml NT-proBNP measurement appears to be useful for selecting patients for care in a heart failure center, and a level > 2000 pg/ml for assigning patients to high priority management.

[1] NT-proBNP = - N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide

D. Tanne, R. Tsabari, O. Chechk, A. Toledano, D. Orion, Y. Schwammenthal, T. Philips, E. Schammenthal and Y. Adler

Background: Regular physical activity is known to have a beneficial impact on multiple cardiovascular risk factors, but there is no routine provision of exercise training programs to patients after ischemic stroke.

Objectives: To assess the tolerability, safety and effect of an outpatient supervised exercise training program in patients after a non-disabling ischemic stroke.

Methods: Patients discharged home following a minor ischemic stroke (modified Rankin scale; mRS ≤ 2) were referred to a 3 month outpatient supervised exercise training program, performed twice weekly as prescribed by a physiologist and supervised by physical therapy. Exercise capacity was evaluated by the 6 minute walk test, and by the modified Bruce exercise test.

Results: Of the 52 patients who met the selection criteria, 43 underwent supervised exercise training within 2 months of stroke onset and 9 did not (control group). The baseline characteristics were comparable between the two groups. Following the exercise training program, an improvement in exercise capacity was observed manifested by improvement in the 6 minute walk test (444 ± 90 to 557 ± 99 meters in the exercise group vs. 438 ± 101 to 418 ± 126 in the control group; P = 0.002 for the score changes) and in the exercise duration achieved in the modified Bruce test and the metabolic equivalents achieved [9.6 ± 3.7 to 12.4 ± 3.2 minutes and 6.2 ± 2.8 to 8.5 ± 3.4 respectively in the exercise group (n=41) vs. 9.2 ± 3.5 to 8.0 ± 3.4 min and 5.8 ± 1.8 to 5.8 ± 2.8 in the control group (n=7); P = 0.0009 and 0.01 for score changes, respectively].

Conclusions: An outpatient supervised exercise training program after a minor ischemic stroke is feasible, well tolerated and is associated with improvement in exercise capacity. We strongly recommend that an aerobic exercise program be offered to suitable patients after an ischemic stroke.

A. Grubstein, O. Benjaminov, D. Ben Dayan, D. Shitrit, M. Cohen and M.R. Kramer

Background: Diseases causing increased pulmonary pressure will subsequently cause a dilation of the pulmonary arteries and right heart chambers.

Objectives: To assess the capability of computed tomography angiography and high resolution CT to diagnose and estimate the severity of pulmonary arterial hypertension as compared with standard means of right heart catheterization, echocardiography and pulmonary function tests.

Methods: The study included 38 patients with PHT[1] who underwent CT angiography and HRCT[2] as part of their routine evaluation. Diagnose included: primary PHT (n=20), Eisenmenger syndrome (n=6), scleroderma (n=3), thromboembolic disease (n=3), and others (n=6). Mean pulmonary artery pressure was 58 mmHg (range 39–92 mmHg) by catheterization and peak systolic pressure 79 mmHg (range 40–135) by echocardiography. Findings for the diameters of the main pulmonary artery and its main branches, the ascending aorta, the right atria and ventricle as well as the position of the interventricular septum were compared with 22 chest CT scans as compared to patients with no known clinical history of pulmonary hypertension, performed for other reasons (trauma, oncology follow-up) during the study period. Correlations were also calculated with recent right heart catheterization, echocardiography and pulmonary function tests of the study group.

Results: Mean main pulmonary artery diameter in the study group was 3.55 ± 0.66 cm, pulmonary artery/ascending aorta ratio 1.2 ± 0.29, right pulmonary artery 2.63 ± 0.49 cm, left pulmonary artery 2.57 ± 0.5 cm. All diameters were significantly different from the control group (P < 0.0001). Main and right pulmonary artery diameters correlated to the pressure measurement by echocardiography (P = 0.001). Bronchial collaterals were found in 11 patients (30%). The position of the interventricular septum correlated well with the echocardiography study.

Conclusions: The size of the main pulmonary artery on CT angiography has a good predictive value regarding the severity of PHT.

[1] PHT = pulmonary arterial hypertension

[2] HRCT = high resolution computed tomography

I. Kimiagar, C. Klein, J.M. Rabey, A. Peer, E. Kaluski, M. Zaretsky

Background: Carotid artery stenting is used as an alternative to surgical endarterectomy.

Objectives: To determine the outcome of CAS[1] in a retrospective cohort of patients.

Methods: Between July 1999 and March 2003, 56 consecutive patients with carotid artery stenosis who were considered ineligible for surgery were treated (45 male, 11 female, mean age 69). All cases were performed prior to the introduction of distal protective devices in Israel.

Results: Intraprocedural complications included transient neurological findings in 5 patients (8%), cerebrovascular accident in 2 (3%), hemodynamic changes in 11 (18%), and 4 procedural failures. Post-procedural complications included transient ischemic attack in 3 patients and cardiovascular accident in 6 (10%). At 30 days follow-up, three patients (5%) remained with signs of CVA[2]. Two patients (3%) died during the post-procedural period and 16 (28%) during the 5 year follow-up, one due to recurrent CVA and the remainder to non-neurological causes. Five-year carotid Doppler follow-up was performed in 25 patients (45%), which revealed normal stent flow in 21 (84%), 50–60% restenosis in 3 patients (12%) and > 70% restenosis in one patient (4%).

Conclusions: This study confirms that stent procedures are beneficial for symptomatic carotid stenosis in patients not eligible for surgery.

[1] CAS = carotid artery stenting

[2] CVA = cardiovascular accident

F. Salameh, N. Cassuto and A. Oliven

Background: Falls are a common problem among hospitalized patients, having a significant impact on quality of life and resource utilization.

Objectives: To develop and validate a fall-risk assessment tool for patients hospitalized in the department of medicine that will combine simplicity with adequate accuracy for routine use.

Methods: This observational cohort study was conducted on the medical wards of an urban tertiary teaching hospital, and included all patients who fell in the medical wards during a 1 year period (n=140) compared to other hospitalized patients.

Results: Significant correlates of falls were previous falls, impairing medical conditions, impaired mobility, and altered mental state. In multivariate logistic regression analyses, only previous falls (odds ratio 3.8 with 95% confidence interval 2.65–5.45, P < 0.0001) and acute impairing medical conditions (OR[1] 1.56, CI[2] 1.06–2.29, P < 0.05) correlated independently with a higher risk for falls. Impaired mobility retained an OR of 1.46 (CI 0.95–2.24, P = 0.084). Accordingly, defining patients with either a history of previous falls or both acute impairing medical state and impaired mobility as fall-prone patients provided a sensitivity and specificity of 67% and 63%, respectively. In a subsequent prospective validation trial on 88 patients who fell during hospitalization and 436 controls, the sensitivity and specificity of this fall-risk grouping were 64% and 68% respectively.

Conclusions: Our new simple and easy-to-use fall-risk assessment tool identified most of the fall-prone patients. These findings suggest that using this tool may enable us to prevent two-thirds of falls on the medical ward by providing effective fall-prevention facilities to only one-third of the patients.

[1] OR = odds ratio

[2] CI = confidence interval

S. Davidson, N. Sokolover, A. Erlich, A. Litwin, N. Linder and L. Sirota

Background: Many centers in Israel still use pre-1970 reference data for neonatal weight, length and head circumference. A recently published population-based reference overestimated the weight of premature infants.

Objective: To develop a national reference for birth weight, birth length, and head circumference by gestational age for singleton infants in Israel.

Methods: Data were collected on all singleton live births documented in the neonatal registry of Rabin Medical Center from 1991 to 2005 (n=82,066). Gestational age estimation was based on the last menstrual period until 1977 and early fetal ultrasound thereafter. Neonates with an implausible birth weight for gestational age (identified by the rule of median ± 5 standard deviations or expert clinical opinion) were excluded. Reference tables for fetal growth by gestational age were created for males and females separately.

Results: The growth references developed differed markedly from the Usher curves currently used in our department. Compared to the recently published population-based birth weight reference, our data were free of the problem of differential misclassification of birth weight for gestational age for the premature infants and very similar for the other gestational age groups. This finding reinforced the validity of our measurements of birth weight, as well as of birth length and head circumference.

Conclusions: Use of our new (birth length and head circumference) and improved (birth weight) gender-specific hospital-based reference for fetal growth may help to define normal and abnormal growth in the neonatal population of Israel and thereby improve neonatal care and public health comparisons.

B. Kessel, K. Peleg, Y. Hershekovitz, T. Khashan, A. Givon, I. Ashkenazi and R. Alfici

Background: Non-operative management following abdominal stab wounds is possible in selected patients who are both hemodynamically stable and do not have signs of peritonitis. However, the rate of failure of non-operative management is higher in Israel than in western countries.

Objectives: To assess the patterns of injury following abdominal stabbing.

Methods: Data from the Israeli Trauma Registry were used to identify all patients with abdominal stab injury admitted to eight different trauma centers between 1997 and 2004.

Results: The number of patients admitted per year more than doubled between 1997 and 2004, from 257 to 599. The percentage of patients with severe injury (Index Severity Score ≥ 16) increased from 9.4% to 19.0%. The incidence of multiple stab injuries almost doubled, from 37% to 62%.

Conclusions: Review of the data in the Israeli Trauma Registry indicates an increase in both absolute rate and relative incidence of serious stab injuries. This indicates that patterns of injury following stab wounds are not necessarily similar, not even within the same geographical area over time.

Issues in Rheumatology and Autoimmunity
N. Haroon, R. Misra and A. Aggarwal

There has been a paradigm shift in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in recent years. Early and aggressive treatment with good control of disease activity has improved the prognosis of the disease, however, there is significant variability in the response of patients to different therapeutic agents. Hence it is essential to find the predictors of response to a drug at baseline so that we can avoid the delay in achieving remission and improve the outcome. Here we review the literature on available predictors for treatment response in general and specifically for methotrexate and biological agents. We also look at specific scores or indices that can help predict the response in individual patients.

Toxic Chemical Compounds
I. Makarovsky, G. Markel, A. Hoffman, O. Schein, T. Brosh-Nissimov, Z. Tashma, T. Dushnitsky and A. Eisenkraft
I. Amirav and A. Zacharasiewicz

Management of asthma is currently based on symptoms (in children, usually a second-hand report from parents) and lung function measurements. Inhaled steroids, targeted at controlling airway inflammation, are the mainstay of asthma management. Due to possible side effects they should be used at the lowest possible doses while asthma is adequately controlled. Fractional exhaled nitric oxide is a simple non-invasive method to assess inflammation in asthma and its role in asthma management is increasing in popularity. The present review summarizes recent research on the use of FeNO[1] in monitoring airway inflammation and optimizing asthma management. The addition of FeNO measurements to the conventional assessment of asthma control appears promising. The practicability of including this measuring method into everyday clinical practice is currently being evaluated.

[1] FeNO = fractional exhaled nitric oxide

Case Communications
M. Chanimov, I. Ben-Shlomo, B. Chayen, V. Gurovich, M. Friedland, M.L. Cohen and M. Bahar
C.C. Belizna, J.M. Kerleau, F. Heron, N. Cailleux and H. Levesque
L. Shlizeman, S. Mazzawai and I. Elmalah
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