Medical Tests & Procedures Archive

Articles

Slightly leaky heart valves

A small amount of leakage (regurgitation) from the mitral or tricuspid valve is normal. People with either condition do not need to modify their activity levels, but they should stay alert to symptoms that suggest the problem is worsening.

Our evolving understanding of the problem with plaque

New imaging techniques that use light or sound waves to create images of the inside of coronary arteries have helped researchers better understand the fat-laden plaque that builds up inside artery walls (atherosclerosis). Most heart attacks happen when small, inflamed areas of fatty plaque rupture suddenly, causing a clot that blocks blood flow. This may explain why treating large, obstructive plaques with stents or bypass surgery does not seem to prevent heart attacks or help people live longer.

The best way to beat colon cancer

When do you need to get screened, and how often?

One of the deadliest cancers can be prevented or detected at a curable stage if you follow recommended screening guidelines.

Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The good news is that the death rate has steadily dropped over the past several decades among older adults. (However, among people under 55, death rates from colon cancer have grown slowly, but steadily, since 2008.)

Blood test could find Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear

In the journals

Researchers are close to finding early cancer with a blood test. They may soon do the same with Alzheimer's disease. A new blood test called p-tau217 has shown great promise in diagnosing people with the disease, according to findings published online July 28, 2020, by JAMA.

The test looks for a specific type of tau protein in the blood. In people with Alzheimer's, tau protein in the brain forms tangles. Accumulation of tau protein tangles along with beta-amyloid deposits is thought to play a key role in how the disease develops.

Stress-induced brain activity linked to chest pain from heart disease

Research we're watching

Doctors have long known that mental or psychological stress can lead to angina (chest pain or discomfort caused by inadequate blood to the heart). Now, new research reveals a direct correlation between angina and stress-related activity in the brain's frontal lobe. The study included 148 people with coronary artery disease with an average age of 62. All underwent brain and heart imaging tests done in conjunction with mental stress testing, which involved mental arithmetic and public speaking. Imaging tests were also done under "control" conditions, which featured simple counting and recalling a neutral event. Researchers monitored the participants for angina during the tests; they also assessed angina rates again after two years.

Activity in the inferior frontal lobe area of the brain during mental stress was linked to the severity of self-reported angina, both during the brain imaging and at the two-year follow-up. A better understanding of how the brain reacts to stress may be an important consideration for doctors who treat angina, according to the study's lead author. The study was published online Aug. 10, 2020, by the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Smokers may have higher risk of brain aneurysm

Research we're watching

Need another reason to quit smoking? A study published in the September 2020 issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry found that women ages 30 to 60 who smoked had four times the risk of having a brain aneurysm (a weakened artery in the brain that bulges and could burst) compared with nonsmokers.

Researchers looked at nearly 550 women who had a brain scan performed, most often because of persistent headaches. The scans showed that 113 of them had one or more brain aneurysms. These individuals were then matched with 113 people who did not have brain aneurysms. In comparing the two groups, the researchers found not only that smoking drove up the risk of finding a brain aneurysm, but also that women who both smoked and had high blood pressure had seven times the risk compared to nonsmokers with normal blood pressure. If future research shows that smokers also have a significantly higher risk of brain aneurysm rupture, women smokers ages 30 to 60 might be candidates for aneurysm screening.

Beyond "bad" cholesterol: A closer look at your blood lipids

For assessing heart disease risk, a standard cholesterol test doesn't always tell the whole story. Some people with "normal" LDL cholesterol levels might benefit from a test that measures apolipoprotein B (apoB). This test, which measures the number of LDL particles as well as other particles that can contribute to clogged arteries, may be a better indicator of heart disease risk than just an LDL cholesterol value.

What is a silent stroke?

Most strokes are caused by a clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Those that damage small areas of brain tissue that don't control any vital functions are known as silent strokes because they don't cause any noticeable symptoms.

Colposcopy

What Is It?

Colposcopy is an examination of a woman's vagina and cervix using a colposcope, a portable instrument with a light source and magnifying lenses. This instrument lets your doctor examine the cervix and vagina for cancer and abnormal areas that may become cancer. Colposcopy takes about 15 to 30 minutes and doesn't require anesthesia.

What It's Used For

Doctors use colposcopy to check for cervical cancer or precancerous changes after an abnormal Pap test or as a follow-up procedure to view an abnormal area seen during an earlier gynecological examination. During colposcopy, your doctor can remove a sample of tissue from the cervix for testing (biopsy).

Colposcopy and Cervical Biopsy

What is the test?

Colposcopy is a procedure in which a magnifying lens is used to closely examine a woman's cervix, the entrance to the uterus, located at the inner end of the vagina. The colposcope is basically a pair of special binoculars on a rolling stand. By looking through the colposcope, a doctor can identify abnormal-appearing areas of the cervix, which can then be biopsied. A pathologist examines the biopsy specimen under a microscope to determine if a precancerous condition (or, rarely, cancer) is present.

Colposcopy is done to evaluate an abnormal Pap smear. It is appropriate to have colposcopy if your pap reveals abnormal cells, particularly if you have human papillomavirus (HPV) found in the pap sample. It is also appropriate to have colposcopy if you have HPV found in repeated pap samples. This is true even if the cells appear normal.

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