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Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(10):2208

Even though we have come far since movies of frothing dogs, that image still haunts our minds. According to a UCLA study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this ghost has led to an increased use of the rabies vaccine in emergency departments nationwide. In a two-year study, 40 percent of 136 patients who received the rabies vaccine after animal contact did so unnecessarily.

A tiny electric shock can be an arm-lifting experience for stroke victims—literally. All 11 participants in a University of Florida study gained upper limb control after 12 sessions of electromyography-triggered neuromuscular electrical stimulation. The painless stimulation is thought to reactivate or create new communication pathways between the brain and the upper limbs.

Unfortunately, the word “oops” is commonly heard in nursing homes across the nation. The American Journal of Medicine reported that half of the 546 medication-related injuries in a study of 18 nursing homes were preventable. Forty-nine percent of the drug-related incidents were due to caregivers' failure to monitor residents adequately. An earlier survey indicated that 40,000 to 100,000 deaths per year might be caused by medication-related errors.

Hazardous hedgehogs? The African pygmy hedgehog has become a popular exotic animal in the U.S., with hedgehog fanciers claiming they make good family pets. That's hard to imagine, given the creature's resistance to domestication and its propensity for using its quills to keep humans away. Despite their popularity (8,000 to 10,000 currently in this country), hedgehogs have some drawbacks. An article in the Southern Medical Journal cites case studies involving hedgehog-related dermatophytosis. Contact with an infected hedgehog can cause inflammatory tinea corporis, tinea barbae, vesiculobullous tinea manuum and kerion type tinea capitis in humans—not to mention the pain caused by those nasty quills.

Less than a heartbeat is all it takes for the new ultrafast computed tomography (CT) to scan an entire adult chest. First used to image the beating heart, the new technology can also be used safely and effectively on children under six in place of the standard CT scan, according to a study published in Family Practice News. The standard scan requires that the patient lie still for 1 minute, which means that children under 6 have to be sedated. Sedation fails nearly 5 percent of the time and can cause adverse effects in patients.

Remember what your mother told you when someone said insulting words about you? She was right in saying that words won't break your bones, but a study of 1,000 women showed that emotionally abused women were more likely to report poor physical health than other women. Reported at the Smart Marriages conference by a South Carolina epidemiologist, the study also revealed that the health problems were stress-related and correlated with physical abuse.

The truth is written all over your face. Participants in studies conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California–San Francisco were shown two videos of a woman describing a television scene. The receptive aphasics among the participants detected that the woman was lying 73 percent of the time. The other participants, who detected the lies only 50 percent of the time, could learn much from the aphasic persons about reading facial expressions.

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