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.


Antidepressants and talking therapies offer similar benefits for new-onset major depression

This review found no difference in effectiveness or drop-out rates between antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy for adults recently diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Both treatments should be offered, as recommended by NICE, either alone or possibly in combination, and the final decision will rely heavily on the patient’s preference. The challenge for talking therapies ...


Corticosteroids could help reduce deaths due to blood poisoning

Treatment with low dose corticosteroids given over three or more days reduces the death rate from blood poisoning by 13%, saving about 43 lives per 1000 treated at one month. Blood sugar and sodium levels rose slightly but there was no increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding or additional infection. Current international guidance from 2012 only ...


Motivational interviewing may encourage healthy eating in people with type 2 diabetes

A motivational communication approach may help people with type 2 diabetes eat more healthily, but may be no better than usual care for changing other behaviours or improving health. The technique involves exploring any ambivalence to change, listening and reflecting non-judgmental questions back to people, alongside helping them to set agendas for changing habits and ...


Two types of anaesthesia are safe for hip and knee replacements but one may reduce the time spent in hospital by a few hours

Neuraxial anaesthesia, administered around the nerves in the spine, was found to be as safe as general anaesthesia for people undergoing total hip or knee replacements. This review found a similar risk of dying, infection, nerve damage and blood clots in people regardless of the type of anaesthesia. Hospital stay was reduced on average by ...


Drug and behavioural therapy are both effective for tics in people with Tourette syndrome

There are effective drug and behavioural treatments for tics in children and young people with Tourette syndrome. Although most of the studies included in this review were small with risk of bias, the effects found were moderate to large and likely to be clinically meaningful. This NIHR funded systematic review and qualitative study found that ...


Earplugs may reduce risk of confusion in patients while in intensive care

Earplugs appear effective at reducing the risk of patients in intensive care units (ICU) developing delirium, a state of confusion in people who are unwell. The effect was seen whether the earplugs were used alone or with other sleep aids like eye masks or soothing music. Earplugs also reduced the duration of confusion by around ...


Predicting severe brain injuries from apparent minor head trauma without a scan

Specific clinical decision rules applied to adults and adolescents with apparent minor head injury identified groups at low risk of severe internal head injuries, potentially reducing the number of unnecessary CT scans used in this low-risk group. For example, patients with apparent minor head injury lacking any of the features of the Canadian CT Head ...


Blood tests alone are not sufficient for detecting recurrent bowel cancer

The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) blood test – part of the usual approach for monitoring for bowel cancer– is not sensitive or specific enough to depend on alone for detecting recurrence. This new Cochrane review added more detail to existing evidence about the low sensitivity and specificity of CEA, a test which has been available in ...


A new method for monitoring baby’s heart beat during labour probably not justified

A new way of monitoring a baby’s distress during labour, called ST waveform analysis, did not improve outcomes for the baby or reduce the likelihood of a caesarean section compared to current practice. Although monitoring of babies’ heartbeats during labour is common practice in the UK, additional ST analysis is not commonly used and on ...


Extending anticoagulant treatment beyond three months reduces the risk of recurrent blood clots

Warfarin, newer direct oral anticoagulants and aspirin all significantly reduced the rate of recurrent clots in patients treated for more than the standard three months. Aspirin was the least effective and the number of major bleeds and deaths was low in all three groups. This review pooling seven trials found that between six and 36 ...

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