Livin' on the MDedge

Transplanted food allergies, cavity-check hospital bills, and cancer-blocking houseplants


One lung, please (Hold the food allergy)

Is an organ transplant really worth the risk of developing a food allergy? Probably (er, definitely), but it still totally stinks. A 68-year-old woman suffered an allergic reaction to an innocent peanut butter and jelly sandwich earlier this year, after spending decades of eating peanut butter with no problem. Turns out, her lung transplant donor was allergic to peanuts and unfortunately passed that curse onto her. At least he wasn’t lactose intolerant – can you imagine suddenly being unable to eat cheese?!

peanut butter and jelly sandwich Yulia_Davidovich/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Passing on allergies via transplant is extremely rare; there are only about five cases of transplanted peanut allergies. The use of tacrolimus, an immunosuppressive drug, can also increase the risk of contracting food allergies post transplant. Luckily, the woman in question was still in the hospital when she began experiencing symptoms of an allergy attack, and doctors were able to correctly identify and punish the offending sandwich.

A debt of ingratitude

Medical personnel generally don’t get involved in searches for illegal drugs, but physicians at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, N.Y., found themselves in just such a position. Because the police had a court order. Because the suspect said that he’d hidden drugs … in his rectum.

medical bills, calculator everydayplus/Thinkstock

An x-ray had shown no evidence of drugs, but physicians there performed a sigmoidoscopy on Torrence Jackson after a hospital lawyer said “that a search warrant required the doctors to use ‘any means’ to retrieve the drugs,” according to a recent report of the incident, which took place on Oct. 16, 2017. The sigmoidoscopy confirmed the x-ray finding, or lack thereof, and drug charges against Mr. Jackson eventually were thrown out.

The health care system, however, did its part to put a cherry on top of the situation: The hospital billed Mr. Jackson $4,595.12 for the procedure, and then said it would turn the matter over to a debt collector when he refused to pay.

Cancer-blocking plants?

All hail the GMOs! Researchers from the University of Washington have used genetic modification on a houseplant to turn it into a lean, green, chloroform-eatin’ machine. These mad scientists modified devil’s ivy to pull chloroform (found in chlorinated water) and benzene (found in gasoline) from the air and use them for plant growth.

potted plants sagarmanis/iStock/Getty Images Plus

These compounds are often so small they can’t be caught by air filters but can still cause damage – exposure to chloroform and benzene has been linked to cancer. Now, you can lessen your risk of cancer and enjoy some nice greenery in your home. Researchers have also started working on a new genetic modification to remove formaldehyde compounds from the air. It looks like the future of health is all about plants!

It must be true – it’s in a study

skydiver Mauricio Graiki/iStock/Getty Images

There’s untested, widely accepted truth, and then there’s empirically tested truth demonstrated in a rigorous scientific trial. Untested, widely accepted truth in point: Compared with using a simple backpack, parachute use is more likely to prevent death or major traumatic injury when leaping from an aircraft. Of course, no one’s ever done a study to prove it. Because, duh. Also, institutional review boards. Also, lawyers.

Until now.

Robert Yeh, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues began recruiting for just such a research trial while flying commercially. Few seat mates took up their randomized-to-parachute-or-backpack offer. That forced Dr. Yeh to recruit randomized participants from among fellow academics. Twenty-three research-minded souls agreed to make the leap for scientific progress from either a biplane or a helicopter, thereby making the study “Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial” a BMJ-published reality.

The results? “Our groundbreaking study found no statistically significant difference in the primary outcome between the treatment and control arms.”

How can the scientific method explain such a skydiving miracle? Because each and every study participant leaped ... 2 feet. From a parked biplane or helicopter.

“Although we can confidently recommend that individuals jumping from small stationary aircraft on the ground do not require parachutes, individual judgment should be exercised when applying these findings at higher altitudes.” It’s also possible the study authors are suggesting individual judgment should have a parachute, not a backpack, when physicians dive into a study’s scientific methodology.

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