Inside Health

BBC Radio 4


Dr Mark Porter demystifies health issues, separating fact from fiction and bringing clarity to conflicting health advice, with the help of regular contributor GP Margaret McCartney


Edge of space, Laparotomy, Tremor, Pyjamas

October 16th, 2012

Episode 129 of 329 episodes

Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking freefall from the edge of space was witnessed online by 8 million people around the world this week. The jump was well-planned and included equipment to enable him to breathe at high altitude and low pressure. Dr Kevin Fong is the Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fellow, and Associate Director of the Centre for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine at University College London. He says that a pressurised suit would prevent his blood from "boiling" at the so-called Armstrong line - where pressure in the atmosphere means that boiling point of water is the same as body temperature. A previous attempt in the 1960s almost failed - when the pressurised suit leaked, causing swelling in one hand. The chances of surviving a common type of emergency abdominal surgery are lower if you have the operation at night or over the weekend. The first report produced by the UK Emergency Laparotomy Network shows that the odds of survival vary tremendously between hospitals too - from a 96% chance of pulling through in the best units, to just 58% in the worst. The study involved 2,000 patients who had undergone the surgery at 35 different NHS hospitals. The patients who need this operation are often very sick - with a blocked bowel or suspected bleeding in the abdomen. Mike Grocott, who's Professor of Anaesthesia and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Southampton believes that this type of case should be given the best care possible - by a consultant surgeon and consultant anaesthetist. The published results are anonymised - but Dr Dave Murray who's a Consultant Anaesthetist at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, says data will be collected nationally and published in 2015, including the names of the hospitals. One listener - a former artist and puppeteer - emailed Inside Health about his recent diagnosis of essential tremor. He's finding the shaking of his hands embarrassing and wonders what can be done about it. Professor Leslie Findley, who's Consultant Neurologist at the Essex Neurosciences Unit at Queens' Hospital in Romford, describes the options - from beta blockers to deep brain stimulation. If you've ever spent time in hospital you may have worn an open-backed hospital gown - which often gapes in an undignified manner. But if you are a man on the urology wards at Solihull hospital in the West Midlands then you are in for a treat - pyjamas designed by the staff to preserve dignity and reduce the likelihood of complications. Consultant urological surgeon Mr Dev Sarmah is one of the team who came up with new design in response to a spate of blocked catheters in patients wearing conventional pyjamas.

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