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.


Birthplace in England follow-up analysis reveals some variation between units delivering maternity care

This study is a follow-on analysis of data from the Birthplace in England study. It consists of five sub-studies that further analyse the original Birthplace in England study data. The NIHR funded this study to provide evidence to inform the development of maternity services. It found that, irrespective of the woman’s ethnic background, age or ...


A simple test can help point to serious illness in children

This review found that the capillary refill test was useful in diagnosing serious illness or dehydration in children. The quick test, done by pressing on the nail bed, is used to monitor blood flow. The review of studies testing its accuracy showed it can be used as a “red-flag” to identify (i.e.rule in) potential serious ...


Medication impregnated dressings for central venous catheters reduce the number of bloodstream infections, but the quality of the research is low

This review found that securing central venous catheters with dressings impregnated with medication reduced the number of bloodstream infections compared to other dressings. The frequency of infection was particularly reduced with chlorhexidine antiseptic dressings. Based on the study population it is anticipated that rates might fall from about 2.8 infections per 100 people using usual ...


A supervised toothbrushing programme in nurseries reduced dental treatment costs

This cost analysis showed that a Scotland-wide programme of supervised toothbrushing in nurseries is linked to large savings in dental treatment costs because of the reduced levels of tooth decay in five year-old children. In the eighth year, the programme saved more than two and a half times the programme’s cost of implementation. The greatest ...


New evidence available on corticosteroids added to antibiotics in severe pneumonia

For adults admitted to hospital with severe pneumonia, this review found that adding corticosteroids to the usual antibiotic treatment may be beneficial. The evidence was less supportive of using corticosteroids in people with less severe pneumonia. Results showed modest benefits in allowing patients to reach a clinically stable recovery and leave hospital an average of ...


Rapid tests for diagnosing drug resistant tuberculosis are accurate and may be cost effective

This NIHR funded systematic review and economic evaluation found that three rapid tests for diagnosing drug resistant tuberculosis were highly accurate and likely to be cost effective in the UK. These tests produce results within one day of obtaining a sample. This is a significant reduction compared with the standard tests which can take about ...


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 ...

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