NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Archive for June, 2017

Experts Tackle Aspiration in Lung Transplant Patients

Experts Tackle Aspiration in Lung Transplant PatientsA study led by researchers from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh aimed to minimize the risk of postoperative aspiration – food and liquid entering the airway – in the lung transplant population.

The goals were to determine the frequency of aspiration, assess how accurately speech-language pathologists can evaluate for aspiration in these patients at the bedside, and develop a standardized swallowing assessment protocol to improve care after lung transplantation.

Complications from gastroesophageal reflux have been extensively studied in the lung transplant population, leading to interventions for management postoperatively to prevent devastating complications, as well as long-term effects that may result in the development of rejection.

Oropharyngeal dysphagia is also increasingly recognized in this population, and speech-language pathologists can play a vital role in minimizing aspiration risk and associated complications in the postoperative period.

Brooke Baumann and Sara Byers, senior speech-language pathologists from the UPMC Department of Otolaryngology and Division of Speech-Language Pathology, discussed their findings, which were  recently published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.


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The Opioid Epidemic: Protecting Our Protectors

The Opioid Epidemic: Protecting Our ProtectorsRecent reports have highlighted a regional police officer who, after being exposed to potent opioids, had a possible associated toxicity.

This report recognized the unpredictable and potentially dangerous environments faced by law enforcement and medical responders almost every day.

As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate lives across Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation, law enforcement and medical responders are put at a greater health risk as they attempt to save the lives of those impacted by heroin addiction.

UPMC toxicologists and Pittsburgh Poison Center specialists have performed ongoing surveillance of drug identification in local and statewide trends surrounding the distribution and availability of heroin in collaboration with agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency, FB I and medical examiner’s office.

Through this research, we are now able to provide Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania and Allegheny County departments of health and Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner practical recommendations to protect these individuals as they work to protect our communities.

As it turns out, the actual risk of an exposure to opioids leading to toxicity is unlikely. However, as we see expanding distribution of potent drugs, that risk continues to grow. Powdered drugs are not readily absorbed through the skin, but given the potency of drugs like carfentanil, even small exposures can be potentially dangerous — particularly when those handling the drugs are sweating or overheated. (more…)

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Clinical Care by the Numbers

UPMC cares for the people of western Pennsylvania and beyond. Just how much care is that?

UPMC projected the amount of clinical care that would be delivered between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.

Here’s a snapshot of the clinical care numbers for fiscal year 2017:

  • Average number of patients in hospitals each day: 4,000.
  • More than 870,000 visits to the emergency departments were clocked.
  • The health system did more than 200,000 surgeries, including 650 transplants.
  • Over 1,200,000 specialty prescriptions were filled.
  • The Home Health staff made 800,000 home visits.
  • Clinics, doctors’ offices, rehab centers and other outpatient services had more than 3,900,000 visits.

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Something to Bark About

UPMC staff and their canines can apply to receive free training through the Animal Friends Therapets program thanks to a grant from The Beckwith Institute.UPMC staff and their canine companions can now apply to receive free training through the Animal Friends Therapets program thanks to a grant from The Beckwith Institute.

Eight UPMC employees and their dogs will be selected for the initial round of training. If the pilot is successful, the institute will fund future sessions for additional staff members at later dates.

After successfully completing a six-week training program and a certification test, each new Therapets team will volunteer at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, helping to brighten the lives of patients, their loved ones and staff.

“Pet therapy visits are certainly for patients, but the family members and staff are just as important,” said Melissa Saul, a clinical data scientist at UPMC Montefiore, whose dog, Blue Suede Shoes, is a certified Therapet. “It takes the atmosphere of the unit to a different level.”

UPMC Board President G. Nicholas Beckwith III and his wife, Dotty Beckwith, co-founders of The Beckwith Institute, suggested the Therapets training as a meaningful way to thank staff for their dedication while providing them with an opportunity to help others through pet therapy.

“I have seen the program change lives,” said Keith Zimmer, Magee’s volunteer coordinator, as he recounted how a recent visit from a Therapets team motivated a depressed oncology patient to get out of bed, something she refused to do for her care team.

Animal Friends’ existing relationship with UPMC continues to grow with the addition of the new volunteers. In 2016, Therapets teams helped 15,077 patients, families and staff in 11 UPMC facilities.

The Beckwith Institute annually provides grants to improve clinical outcomes by empowering both clinicians and patients to explore innovative ways of transforming health care.

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