Medical Tests & Procedures Archive


Should you order your own Alzheimer's test?

For the first time, consumers can order a blood screening for Alzheimer's disease. The screening looks for two types of brain proteins, one of which is associated with Alzheimer's. Doctors have concerns about the screening: it's not FDA-approved, there's little information about its accuracy, and it can take a few days to speak with a doctor about the results. By comparison, an official Alzheimer's diagnosis involves a comprehensive evaluation of someone's current and past health problems, physical and neurological exams, family history, blood tests to rule out hidden conditions that might be causing memory problems (such as vitamin B12 deficiency), and imaging tests.

Fixing a faulty aortic valve

A nonsurgical approach for replacing a damaged aortic valve, known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), has become very popular in recent years. But it may not make sense for people in their 60s, who are likely to need a second valve replacement later in life. The valves used in TAVR only last about 10 years, on average. In addition, diagnosing and treating coronary artery disease may be more challenging in people who've had TAVR. Also, the surgery to replace a failed TAVR valve is more complicated than regular valve replacement surgery. So people who are likely to need least one traditional valve surgery are better off having the surgery in their 60s rather than in their 70s. A TAVR can be done the second time around.

Biotin supplements

Taking supplements that contain high levels of biotin (vitamin B7) can lead to falsely low or falsely high results on a troponin test, a blood test used to diagnose heart attacks.

Do you need a medical escort?

Some minor medical procedures require patients to bring a medical escort because they involve anesthesia or sedation, which can leave patients groggy or feeling ill afterward. Finding a medical escort can be problematic for older adults who live alone or have no family members or friends who can fill in. Public transportation also won't suffice, since drivers can't accompany customers into their homes. People in need of a medical escort can seek help from community organizations or check with their area's Office on Aging or home health agencies for such services.

Lynch syndrome: Reclaiming power

Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition that predisposes people to colorectal, uterine, ovarian, and other forms of cancer. Genetic testing can pinpoint Lynch syndrome, and genetic counseling is also recommended. People with Lynch syndrome need frequent cancer screenings and should watch for symptoms. Women with Lynch syndrome are also advised to undergo risk-reducing surgery that removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus between ages 35 and 40, unless a woman is planning another pregnancy.

Living with heart disease? Avoid unnecessary testing

For people with chronic coronary disease who do not have symptoms, new guidelines recommend against routine testing with cardiac CT angiography, echocardiography, and stress testing. The results are unhelpful—and in some cases harmful. Unclear results often general additional testing or unnecessary procedures, including some that expose people to radiation for no reason. In addition, the tests add expense without any corresponding benefit, and these costs are increasingly being passed back to patients, in the form of copayments or higher premiums.

Can I improve my ejection fraction?

Ejection fraction is the fraction (expressed as a percentage) of the blood that the heart "ejects" out to the rest of the body when it contracts. Low ejection fraction signals one form of heart failure. An echocardiogram is the standard test to measure ejection fraction.

Simpler way to test for true penicillin allergy

A 2023 study found that an oral penicillin challenge in a doctor's office provides a simple method of determining true penicillin allergy.

FDA approves new surgical treatment for enlarged prostates

A transurethral resection of the prostate is considered the gold-standard treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia. But newer, less invasive procedures offer faster recovery times and fewer risks of complications. Earlier this year another new procedure won the FDA's approval.

Genetic profiling for heart disease: An update

A polygenic risk score for heart disease is based on an analysis of more than three million common DNA variants and is expressed as a percentile. People can have zero, one, or two copies of any variant, each of which may either raise or lower the risk of coronary artery disease. Many of these variants occur in genes known to affect heart disease, such as those related to cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood clotting. Others aren't well understood and may provide targets for future research, potentially fueling new drug discovery efforts. For now, the potential benefits of this test are greatest for people under 50.

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