The latest important research summarised

Short summaries of the latest health research presented in plain English to promote use of research by all members of society.


Daily aspirin reduces pre-eclampsia for ‘at-risk’ women

Starting daily low-dose aspirin before 16 weeks of pregnancy in women at risk reduces pre-eclampsia, severe pre-eclampsia and foetal growth restriction. Aspirin started after 16 weeks is less beneficial, giving smaller risk reduction for pre-eclampsia and no effect on other outcomes. Defining who is ‘at risk’ remains challenging. Pre-eclampsia is a rare pregnancy complication, but ...


Following programmes to improve recovery after surgery linked to shorter hospital stays

Reduced compliance with enhanced recovery protocols was associated with more days in hospital after keyhole bowel surgery, an increased likelihood of readmission and complications. Enhanced recovery, also known as fast track access, is considered standard practice but there is considerable variation in what this means and how this is implemented locally. This systematic review included ...


Propranolol generally safe in treating childhood haemangioma birthmarks

Treating ‘infantile haemangioma’ strawberry birthmarks with oral propranolol is known to be effective and in this review was associated with low levels of adverse events. The most common adverse events included coldness in the hands and feet, diarrhoea, sleep disorders and upper respiratory infections. More serious problems such as low blood pressure, slow heart rate, ...


Nine different drug classes reviewed for type 2 diabetes

Metformin worked best at keeping blood sugar levels under control and remains a good first choice as single therapy. Overall, the nine classes of blood sugar-lowering drugs had similar effect on risk of death from cardiovascular causes and overall mortality, though estimates are imprecise because so few people died in these studies. Risk of other ...


The nitric oxide breath test offers little benefit when monitoring asthma

Using exhaled nitric oxide levels to guide the dose of asthma medication at regular clinic visits may reduce flare-ups but does not improve overall symptoms or quality of life. In this review hospitalisations and the total inhaled steroid doses were unaffected by the intervention. Measuring the amount of fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) in the ...


Drug coated balloons have some short-term benefits for peripheral arterial disease

Widening damaged blood vessels using balloons coated in a drug called paclitaxel improves blood flow and reduces the risk of a further operation within a year compared to cheaper, uncoated balloons. Rates of amputation and death were no different between groups, though there were few of these events. This review of 11 studies included over ...


Whole brain radiotherapy provides little benefit for lung cancer that has spread

Radiotherapy to the whole brain makes little difference to people with the commonest type of lung cancer that has spread to the brain and cannot be operated on. This mainly UK-based trial found no difference in overall survival and quality of life among people who had whole brain radiotherapy plus usual supportive care compared with ...


General surgery is mostly safe during pregnancy

Routine data from English hospitals show that general surgery during pregnancy, such as removing the appendix or gallbladder, does not commonly harm mother or baby. This suggests that surgery in pregnant women is generally safe, but that mothers could be provided with more specific estimates of the risks. This large observational study assessed the “real ...


No clear “best” treatment of mild or severe sickness in pregnancy

Pregnant women could benefit from simple, cheap, “self-help” remedies for mild nausea and vomiting. Ginger, vitamin B6 and possibly acupressure wrist-bands might relieve symptoms for some women, according to a recent overview of research in this area. The review has identified some promising areas for future research. For sickness that doesn’t respond to “self-help” remedies, ...


One group of drugs used to treat Crohn’s disease is unlikely to prevent relapse

Anti-inflammatory drugs called 5-aminosalicylic acids (5-ASAs) do not prevent relapses of Crohn’s disease when compared to placebo at one year. Crohn’s disease is a long-term inflammatory condition which can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, causing pain, diarrhoea and weight loss. It is characterised by recurring bouts of inflammation which can be severe. Once ...

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