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The Top 10 Health Stories of 2008, from the Harvard Health Letter
Date:12/4/2008

y scans.

7. War wounds that don't show.

Psychiatrists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research reported the results of a study this year that counted the number of mild traumatic brain injuries--concussions--among returning troops. Almost half of the soldiers whose concussions had caused a loss of consciousness met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and about a quarter of them were suffering from major depression.

8. Generic Rx: Shopping for health care in the global village.

Once the exception, generic drugs are now the norm. This year, about two-thirds of the prescriptions written by doctors were for generic drugs. Generic drugs have taken off for many reasons. Brand-name blockbusters (Fosamax, Zocor, and Zoloft) have lost their patent protection in recent years. The Medicare Part D prescription plans have loaded up their formularies with generics. But a crucial and underappreciated factor has been the role of low-cost suppliers, many of them in India. Given the potential problems with contaminated imports, the FDA has promised to step up its overseas inspections.

9. Awareness test doesn't make the grade.

Being awake during surgery after being given general anesthesia is one of those bad dreams that sometimes comes true. The bispectral index (BIS) is a formula that uses the values of measurements of the brain's electrical activity to come up with a single number that is supposed to measure "anesthetic depth." More than half of the operating rooms in the United States have BIS technology. But it's been controversial, partly because the company that sells it has kept the formula secret. This year, researchers reported the results of a study that tested the BIS monitoring in a 2,000-person randomized trial. BIS-guided anesthesia was no better at identifying anesthesia awareness than another kind of monitoring. This is another case when the results of an independent clinical t
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