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.


Electrical stimulation alongside other treatments may slightly improve ankle spasticity after stroke, but the clinical importance is uncertain

This systematic review and meta-analysis found that electrical stimulation produced a small, but statistically significant improvement, in tight muscles (spasticity) for people recovering from stroke. The clinical importance of the improvement is uncertain. For example, electrical stimulation improved joint flexibility by an average of 2.87 degrees and spasticity improved by 0.3 on a 5 point ...


A behavioural intervention for obese pregnant women did not reduce risk of diabetes

This large NIHR-funded UK trial found that a behavioural intervention for obese pregnant women did not reduce their risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy, or having a baby born too large for the duration of pregnancy (large-for-dates). However, the intervention did reduce the mothers’ weight gain slightly and increased their physical activity. Women received advice ...


A new, simple postural manoeuvre can stop an abnormally fast heart rate

A simple postural change to the Valsalva manoeuvre (see Definitions) improves the effectiveness of this cheap, non-invasive means of treating supraventricular tachycardia - an abnormally fast heart rate over 100 beats per minute. The NIHR funded a pragmatic trial of the promising technique in ten hospital emergency departments in England. The trial found that laying ...


Inhaling a saline mist did not reduce the time in hospital for babies with bronchiolitis

In this NIHR-funded trial babies with a viral chest infection (acute bronchiolitis) were treated either with a strong saline mist (nebulised 3% hypertonic sodium chloride) with standard care or standard care alone. The stronger than usual, hypertonic saline mist had no effect on the time it took for babies to be ready for discharge, nor ...


Listening to music reduces pain and anxiety for patients having surgery

This systematic review found that music can moderately reduce pain and anxiety when played before, during or after surgery. It also strongly increased patient satisfaction. Music was equally effective whether chosen by the patient or not. It was most effective when played before surgery and when the patient was conscious, though it was still effective ...


A coping programme moderately reduces depression and anxiety in carers of people with dementia

This NIHR-funded trial found that a programme to support carers of people with dementia was moderately effective in reducing carers’ depression and anxiety scores for up to two years. It was also cost-effective. The programme consisted of eight sessions delivered by psychology graduates, covering topics such as managing difficult behaviour, accessing support and planning for ...


Education can restore awareness of low blood glucose in people with type 1 diabetes

This systematic review found that a range of educational and technological interventions could help adults with type 1 diabetes regain awareness of when they have low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia). Nearly one in every three adults with type 1 diabetes stops noticing low blood sugar levels. This means they cannot take action quickly to prevent a ...


Clinics and activities in primary care can reduce heart disease deaths

This review found that primary care interventions at an organisational level for people with coronary heart disease reduced death rates for up to six years after the intervention, compared to usual care. The structured interventions lasted between one and three years and included activities like organising dedicated clinics to monitor and adjust medication to meet ...


New drugs for deep vein thrombosis may offer a safe alternative to warfarin

This Cochrane systematic review found that two new types of drugs taken by mouth for deep vein thrombosis were as effective as standard treatment, which most commonly involves treatment by injection followed by warfarin tablets for at least three months. The new drugs have the advantage that they do not require monitoring or dose changes ...


Self-management support for stroke survivors may improve independence

This NIHR-funded summary of systematic reviews looked at the evidence on self-management support for stroke survivors. It found that the term self-management was rarely used in the literature. There was high quality evidence that therapy-based rehabilitation, some of it including components supporting self-management, had a beneficial effect on the basic activities of daily living, such ...

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