Episode

Inside Health

BBC Radio 4

Health

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

Website

GI bleeds, pregnancy and working, frozen shoulder, patient surveys

July 3rd, 2012

Episode 99 of 329 episodes

50,000 people end up in hospital every year in the UK because of bleeding from the top end of the gut - an upper gastrointestinal bleed. Around 1 in 10 of them will die. Gastrointestinal or GI bleeds are often due to ulcers - a side effect of taking aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and diclofenac. The bleeding can occur in the gullet, stomach or the first part of the intestine, the duodenum. Other causes include cancers and liver disease. The location of the bleed can be pinpointed by using an endoscope - a camera to look inside the gut - and treatments include stopping the bleeding with clips, heat or injections of adrenalin. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence hopes to change that with new guidelines on managing GI bleeds - guidelines which, as of last month, hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be expected to follow. Scotland has had similar guidance in place for the last few years. David Patch is a Consultant Hepatologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London and has a special interest in this type of bleeding. He says that patients whose needs cannot be met at smaller hospitals should be transferred to specialist units where they can be treated promptly. Tariq Iqbal who's a consultant gastroenterologist at the University of Birmingham is evaluating a new kind of treatment called Hemospray. This is a powder that can sprayed over the bleeding area to stop or slow any bleeding by accelerating the natural clotting process. New research appears to show that standing at work for long periods in pregnancy can affect the unborn child. Research in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, followed 4,680 mothers throughout their pregnancies. Some of the women had jobs where they were on their feet a lot - such as hairdressing, sales and working with toddlers. Women who stood for a long time had babies with smaller heads. It's thought that standing for long periods of time causes blood to "pool" in the legs, limiting the blood supply to the rest of the body including the uterus and therefore the developing foetus. The study also showed that working up to 36 weeks of pregnancy had no impact on birth weight, size or prematurity. Previous studies have shown that heavy lifting increased the risk of babies being born early - but this study showed no such link. Many people with pain and stiffness in the shoulder are told they have a frozen shoulder. But the label is often incorrect as a truly frozen shoulder means restricted movement in all directions, accompanied by pain. It's not known what causes it but it is commoner in people with diabetes. During the very painful initial phase it's best to rest the shoulder and use analgesia to help relieve the pain, especially at night time when it can be at its worst. TENS and acupuncture can help sometimes. The tissues in the shoulder "capsule" appear to be thickened and rubbery - and some relief can be gained from surgery, to let the shoulder move more freely. If left alone about half of patients still have discomfort after 7 years - so the common belief that it lasts 2 years is a myth. As the pain starts to recede physiotherapy can be helpful and if there is inflammation - eg with calcified tendonitis - then steroid injections can relieve pain. Producer: Paula McGrath.

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