Medicine in Blue and White

About the series

"Medicine in Blue and White" is a new television series about Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the first medical information show to air on the Big Ten Network.     >> Watch Episode 1

Episode 2:

A high school athlete with a decision to make and a lot at stake. A retired cook meets the latest in surgical innovation. An account exec whose get up and go slowly got up and went and a social worker who never knew she had not one but two brain aneurysms. And pioneering the science of medicine itself.

Back to school and back to sport could add up to trouble

Not so long ago it was estimated that about 300,000 concussions occurred each year. Today that number is between 2 and 3 million. The numbers are growing so rapidly because the diagnosis of what constitutes a concussion has broadened considerably.
 
The definition of a concussion is a trauma that causes a mental status change or some type of symptom that suggests brain injury.
 
According to Matt Silvis, M.D., “We used to think the concussion was defined by loss of consciousness and now we know that that only happens in about 10% of concussions. So we were missing 90% of concussion just based on a definition. So, when the definition was changed, the numbers really started to increase.”
 
Sixteen year old Jonathan has had five recent concussions playing hockey; a sport he loves that isn't loving him back. His symptoms are common; headache, dizziness, fatigue, poor concentration, poor memory and moodiness to name a few, but unlike the majority other patients who recover within 7 to 10 days Jonathan is in the 10 to 15% who have ongoing problems but problems or not he still wants to get back in the game.
 
Though the numbers are increasing much of what the experts know about what happens to the brain during a concussion remains a mystery.
 
It's the later on down the road subjects that Dr. Robert Harbaugh is researching for the National Football League. He was chosen by the NFL to head a committee set up to figure out what causes long-term neurological dysfunction in some pro players.
 
He and his team hope to collect data on every NFL player and follow them throughout their careers and into retirement. There's no doubt that the information gained from the long-term study will benefit just about everyone who plays sports at any level because the stakes are high and the numbers are nothing to fool around with and information gleaned from better imaging will help as well. Scientists, doctors and researchers at Penn State Hershey are working to improve MRI scans of the brain to give them a better picture of what happens during a concussion. That technology is evolving. For today though there is the big picture to keep in mind and decisions to be made, tough ones; to play or not to play?

A revolutionary new way to treat aneurysms

A cerebral or brain aneurysm occurs when weakness in an artery or vein causes the blood vessel to balloon. Although they have been linked with both smoking and high blood pressure, they occur without any particular cause or reason and produce little or no symptoms. While the death rate after an aneurysm ruptures is high, about 50%, studies indicate the average aneurysm only has a 1 to 2% chance of ever doing so and they're more common than we might think. It's estimated that 1 in 50 people have an aneurysm and don't know it and 20% of those individuals have more than one. Patients like Dawn Temple.
 
Traditionally, aneurysms like Dawn's would have been treated with small coils to close them off. Enter Onyx HD-500, a new treatment. Think of it as liquid glue that completely fills the balloon in the blood vessel effectively closing it off. Penn State Hershey is one of only three hospitals across Pennsylvania using the new technology.
 
Other benefits of the new Onyx HD-500 procedure include both shorter hospital stays and recovery time.

Pioneering robotic surgery

James Bittenbender is retired now but for years he made his living as a cook in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A smoker for almost 50 years he was diagnosed recently with cancer of the upper portion of his voice box. Head and neck cancers account for approximately 5% of all cancers in the United States. They are more common in men and in people over 50 years old. For James Bittenbender it all started with a scratchy throat.
 
Dr. David Goldenberg now uses robotic surgery technology to remove head and neck cancers in a way never done before and James Bittenbender's cancer is a good candidate for the new procedure saving him a lot of time, pain and possible disfigurement.
 
Not anymore. With the help of robot assisted technology surgeons can go through the patient's mouth to remove tumors which is especially effective with cancers of the upper portion of the throat.
 
Dr. Goldenberg is continuing to pioneer new uses for robotic surgery. He recently removed a cancerous tumor near the base of a patient's skull through a very small incision in the neck. The first surgery of its’ kind.

The mind at rest or restless

Charlene Cleary is an account executive for a medical equipment company. She is on the go literally from the time she wakes up visiting clients during the day and completing paperwork in the evening. About three years ago she started losing some energy and gaining some weight. She wasn't too worried about it because she thought it was just part of the natural aging process. Then her blood pressure spiked and the headaches began.
 
She came to Penn State Hershey's Sleep Treatment and Research Center and was diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing. Charlene is one of 18 million Americans who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. It's thought that 10 million more remain undiagnosed.
 
And how far reaching the effects of sleep deprivation can be on the mind and body. Studies are showing that sleep apnea patients tend to have elevated levels of hormones that may lead to a whole host of problems; high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity not to mention an inability to think clearly and drowsy driving. Over 50% of all apnea cases are diagnosed in people aged 40 and older, but that doesn't mean sleep disorders only affect adults. It's estimated that more than 2 million children suffer from sleep disorders as well, but no one knows for sure.
 
Dr. Ed Bixler's sleep study is the first of its kind. His team has been following 700 local school kids since 2002. What makes the study unique is that for the first time ever scientists are looking at a general population of children; not a group already diagnosed with sleep problems. This population will help to measure just how prevalent sleep problems are. It's not an easy thing to pinpoint.
 
The team is now beginning a four-year study in sleep disordered breathing to further identify both the risk factors and possible treatments for children.

Pioneering the science of medicine itself

Welcome to the world of nanotechnology and the laboratories here at Penn State Hershey. Doctors and scientists are collaborating on the treatment of liver cancer; the 5th most common cancer in the world where the 5-year survival rate is less than 5%. The challenge with chemotherapy is how to deliver it in a way that only kills the cancer cells and not the healthy ones around it. The answer could be found in nanotechnology and in making the toxic chemotherapy molecules very, very small.
 
The team is made up of engineers, physicists, pharmacologists, chemists and doctors who are working with cancer patients all eager to get nanotechnology from the bench to the bedside. The team is working toward a Phase I human trial within the next year.

More research information

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