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BBC Radio 4 - Medical Matters

Inside Health

Dr Mark Porter demystifies health issues, separating fact from fiction and bringing clarity to conflicting health advice, with the help of regular contributor GP Margaret McCartney

Inside Health

  • Antibiotics, Statins and Pneumonia, Neurosurgery for Epilepsy
    The Chief Medical Officer has warned of a "post-antibiotic apocalypse" and "the end of modern medicine". As antibiotic resistance increases, the options to treat potentially deadly infections reduces. Inside Health's Dr Margaret McCartney discusses the latest campaign by Public Health England to remind us all not to take antibiotics when they're not needed. It's been over thirty years since there was a breakthrough in the treatment of pneumonia, but that could soon change....and from an surprising source. Researchers in Birmingham at Queen Elizabeth Hospital have been working with the cholesterol-lowering drugs, statins, and discovered that this medication can turbo-charge our immune systems, helping us to fight infection. Dr Liz Sapey, respiratory consultant and researcher tells Dr Mark Porter about the exciting possibility of tablets that cost just a few pence each, being used to treat potentially deadly lung infections like pneumonia. Epilepsy is normally controlled by anti-seizure medication but for a third of patients, pills don't work, and constant fits can have a devastating impact on the developing brain. Neurosurgery - removal or disconnection of parts of the brain where the seizures originate - is now done at a much younger age in patients with untreatable epilepsy. Operating on children takes advantage of brain plasticity. Mark visits Bristol Children's Hospital, one of four national centres which since 2011 have offered increased access to epilepsy surgery. Paediatric neurosurgeon Mike Carter is part of the national drive to operate on children before they are two years old, all to take advantage of brain plasticity. Mark meets 8 year old Lucy, 20 days after she had major surgery to remove a finger-nail sized portion deep in her brain. Lucy's father, Mark Nettle, describes how, before surgery, his daughter had suffered from multiple daily seizures with increasing weakness down the left side of her body. The possibility of ending these debilitating attacks made surgery an attractive option. Producer: Fiona Hill.

  • Dr Google; Sexual orientation and the NHS; Hypermobility; Surgery for COPD
    GPs have been told to ask about their patients' sexual orientation as NHS England plans to record this data for everyone using the service over the age of 16. Dr Google - are doctors' noses really being put out of joint by patients searching their symptoms on the internet to come up with their own diagnoses? Hypermobility is being double jointed and flexible and is often perceived as an asset, but for around 1 in 30 of the population it can be a problem that is often missed - and mismanaged. Plus a counterintuitive approach to help people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. You might think the last thing someone with breathing difficulties needs is smaller lungs, but lung reduction surgery is exactly what's being offered some people with COPD.

  • Vaginal mesh; alcohol and the heart
    Vaginal mesh, used for the treatment of prolapse and incontinence, has hit the news recently as women pursue litigation after suffering serious complications. But there have been concerns ever since the first type of vaginal mesh was launched in the mid-nineties, only to be withdrawn a few years later. Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, explains the 'shambolic' regulation of medical devices, Consultant gynaecologist Swati Jha, who has been collecting data on mesh for over a decade, believes media coverage has been muddled. Women speak of living with surgery, while Inside Health's Dr Margaret McCartney calls for a registry to collect effective data. Plus, new guidance in Scotland challenges the so called 'J-shaped curve' - evidence that moderate drinking is good for the heart. Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of Glasgow and part of the committee that produced the updated guidance, talks to Mark Porter about the changes.

  • Big baby birth trial, Uveitis, Telephone triage, Burns
    Mention arthritis and most people think of older people with osteoarthritic hips or knees. But children get arthritis too, although it's an inflammatory condition where the child's immune system attacks the lining of the joints causing pain, swelling and stiffness. But the joints aren't the only part of the body affected. Around one in six of the 12,000 children in the UK with juvenile idiopathic arthritis also develop worrying inflammation in their eyes, uveitis. This is a silent, symptomless condition which can result in significant visual impairment and even blindness. But a new drug treatment, tested in the UK, has proved to be so successful for this group of children that it has revolutionised treatment both in this country and around the world. The benefits were so large that the trial was stopped early and the new therapy adopted as frontline treatment. Dr Mark Porter visits the Bristol Eye Hospital and meets paediatric rheumatology consultant, Professor Athimalaipet Ramanan to find out more. Bigger babies can get stuck in the final stages of labour - a condition called shoulder dystocia. Most are delivered safely but there are both enormous risks to the baby through lack of oxygen and a traumatic experience for the mother. Professor of Obstetrics at Warwick Medical School, Siobhan Quenby, tells Mark that a nationwide trial of big baby births aims to find out whether delivering the child two weeks early, at 38 weeks, reduces shoulder dystocia and makes the birth safer for mother and child. A report by NHS England highlights cost savings of around £100,000 for GP practices that use telephone triage for patients. But the first independent evaluation of this system, where everyone speaks to a doctor on the phone before they get a face to face appointment suggests that policy makers should reconsider their unequivocal support. Inside Health contributor Dr Margaret McCartney, herself a GP, reviews the findings. Several thousand people a year, many of them children, are admitted to hospital every year with serious burns. One of the country's leading centres for burns victims is at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. As well as serving 13 million people in the local area, the Healing Foundation UK Burns Research Centre treats injured service personnel, airlifted from conflict zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mark gets a tour of the unit from director Naiem Moieman and finds out about the newest research on burns treatment which uses some of the oldest remedies.

  • Scoliosis, Depression, Pets in Hospital, Eustachian Tubes
    After Simon Cowell paid for a Britain's Got talent contestant to have surgery in the US for her curved spine we examine the state of therapy for scoliosis here in the UK. Recent headlines claimed that 1 in 4 teenage girls are depressed but were they accurate? And pets in hospital: the Royal College of Nursing has called for patients to have better access to animals, including their own. Plus Eustachian tubes: tips for what to do if you have blocked ears after your summer holiday.