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Health Headlines

FDA OKs Unique Treatment for Medication-Resistant Depression

BIDMC First To Offer Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy

At least 20 percent of people suffering from depression do not respond to traditional treatments like talk therapy and anti-depression medication, but now there's new hope.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the NeuroStar® Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy System (TMS) - a non-invasive technique with the potential to treat a host of neurological disorders - for use in patients suffering from medication-resistant depression.

TMS works by using magnetic fields to stimulate or suppress specific nerve cell activity in the brain. Using TMS allows doctors to modulate brain activity without surgery and with minimal discomfort to the patient.

Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, neurologist and director of the Berenson-Allen Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, conducted the first controlled clinical trial demonstrating the efficacy of TMS in depression. For many years, the Berenson-Allen Center has offered a clinical treatment program for patients who might benefit from TMS. The Berenson-Allen Center is at the international forefront of the development and therapeutic application for TMS, and several physicians involved in the multi-center clinical trial of TMS that resulted in the FDA approval were trained in a joint course between the Berenson-Allen Center at BIDMC and Harvard Medical School.

"BIDMC is home to the first TMS course in the world and a well established, successful and active clinical treatment program," says Dr. Pascual-Leone. "It is vital that we make sure that TMS is applied by properly trained individuals to maximize its safety and efficacy and promote its embrace by the medical community."

TMS Therapy is not for everyone and there can be side effects. Insurance does not always pay for TMS treatments, but with the FDA approval, that may soon change.

For more information on TMS Therapy, click here, or make an appointment by calling the Center for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation at BIDMC at 617-667-0303.

Varicose Veins - More Than Just a Cosmetic Issue

Free Community Screenings Offered

They are an unsightly and sometimes painful problem - varicose veins. Experts estimate 50 percent of Americans over age 50 - women and men - suffer from these swollen blood vessels seen just beneath the surface of the skin. But varicose veins are not just a cosmetic issue. If left untreated, they can cause pain, fatigue, and in severe cases can lead to sores known as venous ulcers.

Fixing varicose veins used to mean invasive vein stripping surgery. But a minimally invasive treatment option at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center offers a simpler solution for those suffering from varicose veins. It's called the VNUS Closure Procedure.

"The way some people have described it is like closing a Ziploc bag," says Dr. Allen Hamdan, a vascular surgeon at the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "You're taking the vein, which has blood flow in the wrong direction, and putting the two walls of the vein together from top to bottom."

The Closure Procedure works by inserting a catheter into the greater saphenous vein, the main superficial vein in the thigh and calf. The catheter has heating elements that make contact with the vein walls. Radiofrequency energy heats the vein walls as the catheter is pulled back and the vein is closed. The procedure is identical to Laser treatments but less painful and more effective.

The procedure is done under local anesthesia and takes about an hour. It is done in the comfort of a doctors's office with no hospital admission. The leg is wrapped in an ace bandage and patients can resume normal activity the next day. It is offered when medically necessary, so it is covered by most insurance.

Patients who have the characteristic symptoms should be evaluated by their doctor to discuss possible treatment options. BIDMC is offering free varicose vein screenings done by vascular surgeons from the Cardiovascular Institute in October and November. Click here for more information on dates, times and locations.

Folate Rich Diet May Lower Women's Colon Cancer Risk

A diet rich in folate may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in women, according to new research. A South Korean study of more than one-thousand women found those who ate the most folate had a nearly two-thirds lower risk of colorectal cancer than women who consumed only a small amount of the folate. The study found folate intake did not significantly impact a man's risk of colorectal cancer.

Folate is a B vitamin found in green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits. Past research has found evidence that eating folate may reduce the risk of certain cancers.

"This preliminary data once again points us in the direction of encouraging people to focus on meeting their nutrient needs through food sources first rather than solely relying on supplementation," says Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Nutrition expert Dr. George Blackburn. "Nutrient rich foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, when used as part of a balanced diet, act synergistically to impart health and wellness benefits that separate vitamins and minerals on their own are often unable to reproduce."

In the study, women with high folate intake - over 300 micrograms per day - were 64% less likely to develop colorectal cancer compared to women who consumed less than 200 micrograms of folate per day. According to the US Dept. of Agriculture Nutrient Database, one cup of romaine lettuce has 64 micrograms of folate, while one 10-ounce package of uncooked spinach has 551 micrograms of folate. Click here to search the USDA Nutrient Database for other folate rich foods.

Researchers say the findings are important because they suggest cancer risk can be decreased by modifying diet. The findings are published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.