Health Buzz: Use of Medical Scans in the ER Soaring

Gardasil protects older women and gay men; Michelle Kwan talks about post-Olympics life (and health).

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Use of Medical Scans in the ER Soaring 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that medical imaging scans including MRI and CT are used four times as often in today's emergency rooms as a decade ago, the Associated Press reports. In doctor's offices and clinics, scans jumped to almost three times the number performed in the mid-1990s. CDC experts looked at figures from about 500 hospitals and 3,000 doctor's offices and outpatient clinics, according to the AP. There are also many more scanning machines in use; between 1995 and 2006, for example, the number of MRI machines doubled. Though authors of the CDC report note that the medical scans have also improved greatly over time, one expert tells the AP that research has yet to show they are reducing deaths. 

[Read Cost of Medicine: Are High-Tech Medical Devices and Treatments Always Worth It? and FDA Seeks Reduction in Radiation From Medical Scans.] 

Gardasil Protects Older Women, Gay Men 

Gardasil, the vaccine that protects against the cervical-cancer-causing human papilloma virus, may soon be approved for women over age 27, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reports. New clinical trial data involving more than 3,800 women ages 24 to 45 showed that the shot was nearly 90 percent effective at preventing persistent HPV infections—which are sexually transmitted—over the study's four-year duration, according to manufacturer Merck, which released the study yesterday. 

Merck is hoping that the Food and Drug Administration will grant the company permission to expand its product label to include women over 27. The agency deferred a decision on Merck's application for expanded use in June 2008 and again last year. The FDA asked Merck for longer-term efficacy data out to four years, according to Merck spokesperson Pamela Eisele. She says the company expects an FDA decision by June. 

Single women could benefit big time from an expanded approval of this vaccine—especially if they're back on the dating scene after a long hiatus. Many, warned by their doctors against the risk of HPV infections, are currently footing the bill for the $360 cost of the three injections since insurance usually won't cover vaccines or drugs that doctors administer "off label." Read more

[Read Gardasil Side Effects Tough to Monitor and HPV Vaccine: Women Now Have a Choice Between Cervarix and Gardasil.] 

Former Olympic Skater Michelle Kwan Talks About Fitness (and Health) 

What works for you in terms of diet and exercise at one point in your life isn't necessarily going to be your routine forever, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson writes. An extreme example of this: Michelle Kwan, the former Olympian and figure skating champion whose life is very different from what it was when she was actively competing. 

Now she's studying international relations in graduate school, is a public-diplomacy ambassador for the United States, and has partnered with General Electric to promote its new Healthymagination initiative, which focuses on preventive medicine and healthful habits. 

Working out for six hours a day, as Kwan did when she competed, meant she could eat as many as 4,000 calories daily. But in her grad school classes, she actually has to sit down for big parts of her day. She watches the quantity of her food and eats healthfully. She says that, like many other people, she has tried various dietary trends (including Atkins) but has settled on something close to the Zone diet, which recommends a 40-30-30 percent balance of carbs, protein, and fat. Read more

[Slide Show: Wish You Were Headed for the Olympics? How to Train for 9 Winter Sports.] [Read The Winter Olympic Nutrition Plan: What the Athletes Eat and 6 Reasons Your Athletic Performance May Be Lagging.] 

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