Checkup Medical Column for Feb 16

Researchers have discovered that a cancer drug is highly effective at treating ectopic pregnancies in mice, and kidney stones in women appear to be on the rise.

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.


The incidence of painful kidney stones is increasing steadily, especially in women, suggests new research.

The Mayo Clinic studied the prevalence of patients presenting to hospital for the first time with kidney stones among more than 10,000 people from Olmsted County in the US state of Minnesota, between 1984 and 2012.

They found patients tended to be female versus male, with the highest increase between women ages 18 to 39.

Over the three decades, there was a four-fold rise in the incidence of kidney stones among women, while kidney stones among men doubled.

"Symptomatic kidney stones are becoming more common in both men and women," said lead investigator Dr Andrew Rule.

Advances in imaging technology is linked to the increase in incidence of kidney stones, noted Dr Rule.

"We are now diagnosing symptomatic kidney stones that previously would have gone undiagnosed because they would not have been detected."

However, the researchers said further investigation is needed to determine if this is the sole reason for the increase, or if other lifestyle factors, such as diet, are to blame.

For patients who struggle with painful kidney stones, dietary modifications are suggested to prevent future episodes. Such adjustments include drinking more water, lowering salt intake and cutting back on meat.


An anxious mum is closely associated with a baby having reflux, suggests new research.

A Western Sydney University study found first-time mothers with mental health issues - in particular, maternal anxiety - are five times as likely to have their baby noted as having reflux when admitted to hospital.

The finding published this week in journal BMC Paediatrics has prompted calls for better support for women caring for new babies.

"A cycle of anxiety in the mother and unsettled behaviour in the baby, leads to more anxiety in the mother and therefore a more unsettled baby," said Professor Hannah Dahlen from the University's School of Nursing and Midwifery.

For the study, Professor Dahlen and her team analysed the reasons for infants being admitted to Karitane and Tresillian, the Residential Parenting Services (RPS) in NSW, within the first 12 months following birth.

The research project also included analysis of NSW hospital records from 2000-2011, a random audit of 326 medical records from admissions to RPS, and eight focus groups with 45 nurses and doctors working in RPS.

Of the 1,156,020 admissions of infants to NSW hospitals, 11,513 (one per cent) contained a diagnostic code for Gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR/GORD) - a common condition in infants.

Maternal anxiety had the strongest association with a baby being admitted in the first year following birth with GOR/GORD, the study found.

"This does not mean that there is not a legitimate medical issue with the infant, or that the symptoms of reflux are in some way imagined. But it may mean that the medical issues are exacerbated when the mother is not coping," said Prof Dahlen.

She says a GOR/GORD diagnosis should raise a red flag to health professionals.

"If health professionals delved a little deeper, they would find that it may be the mothers that actually need help - and sometimes, there may be better ways to deal with the issues without the need for anti-reflux medication."


There's hope a pill could replace the need for surgery for women with an ectopic pregnancy.

Researchers based at Mercy Hospital for Women and the University of Melbourne discovered that cancer drug vinorelbine was highly effective at treating ectopic pregnancies in mice.

Ectopic pregnancies occur when a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus, usually inside the fallopian tube.

Human clinical trials are now underway in Australia and New Zealand to determine if the drug can successfully treat the majority of ectopic pregnancies without affecting a woman's fertility.


There are calls for more to be done to prevent older Australians sustaining injuries from preventable falls.

A Curtin University study found more than half of older West Australians who reported falling over in the past year did not seek medical assistance, and there had been a significant decline in the number of people being referred to prevention programs after a fall over the past decade.

The research, published in Clinical Interventions in Aging this week, compared the rate of falls among WA community care clients aged 65 and over between 2005 and 2015.

It found of the 47.7 per cent of respondents who had fallen in the previous year, just 27 per cent said they had been referred to a fall prevention program.

This is a marked decrease on the 31 per cent result from a decade ago, says lead author Dr Elissa Burton, from the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science at Curtin University.

"Given almost 100,000 people were hospitalised due to falls in 2012-13, it is so important to gain a better understanding of the causes and prevalence of falls to prevent older Australians from suffering injuries."

Published 16 February 2018 at 12:00pm
Source: AAP