Media Coverage

The work done by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine faculty members (and even some students) is regularly highlighted in newspapers, online media outlets and more. Below you’ll find links to articles and videos of Feinberg in the news.

For the first time in Illinois, surgeons have successfully taken a heart that stopped beating inside a patient and transplanted it into another person with the help of a new, fictionlike device. Surgeons at Northwestern Memoria Hospital announced Wednesday that they performed a heart transplant on October 12 using a machine nicknamed “heart in a box.” It’s an advance that doctors hope will make more hearts available for transplant. About 3,400 people across the country are now waiting for heart transplants, including 182 in Illinois. The heart-in-a-box device, however, allows surgeons to use hearts from donors who suffer circulatory death, which is when the heart and respiratory system shut down. After the heart stops beating, surgeons have about 30 minutes to retrieve it and place it in the device. The device then resuscitates it and keeps it beating by pumping warm, oxygenated blood through it, until it can be transplanted into a donor. The patient who received the heart at Northwestern is doing well, and was preparing to go home early this week, said Dr. Benjamin Bryner, associate director of heart transplantation and mechanical support, and director of the expanded donation program at Northwestern Medicine’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and assistant professor of cardiac surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “I think it’s one of the most significant advances in heart transplant in a few decades,” Bryner said. “It opens up a lot of hearts that were sort of discarded.” Bryner estimates the device could increase the number of heart transplants by about 20% to 30% at Northwestern and across the country. Northwestern now performs about 30 to 40 heart transplants a year, Bryner said.

Seventy percent of donor hearts go unused every year. That means people in need never get the lifesaving organ and people who so generously donated never get the chance to have their gift of life recognized upon their death. But with a new device, doctors are breaking through the biggest barriers for heart transplantation. Jane Wilcox, MD, MSc, is chief of Heart Failure Treatment and Recovery at Northwestern Medicine and associate professor of cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We typically have about four hours to get from the time we retrieve organ to implantation into recipient,” she said. “It’s several steps above the Igloo cooler in that it’s really simulating what the body is like in terms of temp, environment,” Wilcox said. With the new ‘box’ “It’s being perfused with blood and not a solution. And so that allows us to have extended time, over double the time we would have for a typical window to perform a transplant.”

Within days, 48 states and the District of Columbia will reset their clocks and fall back into standard time. From a health standpoint, most sleep and circadian experts say we should stay there. Experts say early-morning sunlight is key to maintaining our circadian rhythms, sleep-wake cycles and overall health. Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, chief of sleep medicine in the department of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said without that sunlight, we can slip into circadian misalignment – “when your internal body clocks fall out of sync with that of the sun clock and your social clocks.” The concern with adopting a permanent change to daylight saving time, which the Senate has voted to do, is that it may chronically throw our bodies out of sync with the sun and lead to a variety of health problems, sleep experts say.

Researchers warned an expert panel of the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday that flawed readings on devices measuring oxygen levels in the blood — especially among Black and dark-skinned patients — might have contributed to deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. Panelists, in turn, urged the federal agency to raise accuracy standards and to alert doctors and consumers of the potential risks. But in recent years, experts said the flawed readings might have driven some of the racial and ethnic disparities exposed in studies reviewing access to Covid treatments. Authors of the studies emphasized that blood-oxygen levels were often a key factor in deciding who would receive certain medicines, oxygen therapies and even hospital beds at times when all were in short supply. For the oximeters that people buy online or from retail stores, the lack of regulation is troubling, said one agency adviser, Dr. Murad Alam, a medicine professor at Northwestern University. People use them, he noted, to monitor oxygen levels at home and decide if they need urgent medical attention. “This is a misclassification problem,” Dr. Alam said. “I don’t know how it happened, but this is not shampoo. So F.D.A. will need to find a way to regulate these.” Advisers urged the agency to provide prominent warnings that the retail devices are not for medical use and are not approved by the F.D.A.

With daylight saving time ending this weekend, some sleep experts say the time change is good for our health. “Falling back” this weekend, when we turn our clocks back one hour at 2 a.m. ET on Sunday, is actually easier on our bodies than the spring time change, according to one sleep expert. “This time of year generally people tedn to tolerate better. It gives you an extra hour of sleep. It does put you more in line with where you want to be,” said Sabra Abbott, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Abbot says studies show the other one-hour time change in March, known as “springing forward,” is detrimental to our health. “We do know that things like car crashes go up, heart attacks go up all around the time of the spring time shift,” Abbot said. As far as the impact of falling back on November 6, Abbot said that most people may find that they get tired earlier in the evening or wake up earlier in the morning. There are ways to address that, according to Abbot, who says getting some extra, bright light at night, even in front of a screen, can help shift our body clocks.

Loyola student Grace Hinchman woke up with a sore neck. What she thought was from sleeping on her pillow wrong escalated to a fever and a splitting headache. She ended up at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s intensive care unit and was having tonic-clonic seizures, which are full body seizures. The 21-year-old eventually found out she has an extremely rare condition called FIRES, febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome. The condition affects 1 in 1,000,000 people, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. “Our understanding of FIRES as it is right now, is that it’s inflammation in the brain,” said Ayush Batra, neurocritical care specialist at Northwestern Medicine. “Something triggers inflammation systemically in the body that then adversely affects some people’s brains. And it creates this vicious cycle where the brain is inflamed, it gets swollen, the swelling increases, it causes more seizures, which causes more swelling, which causes more inflammation. You can see how that could quickly snowball out of control.” The condition can lead to severe neurological and cognitive injury; roughly 20% of patients who suffer from FIRES will return to their normal healthy state after successful treatment, Batra said. The remaining 80% may live with lifelong uncontrolled epilepsy or have long-lasting cognitive deficits, depending on the severity of initial seizures.

It’s estimated that about 4% of adults have nightmares that are frequent and distressing enough to impair their sleep and daily functioning. In some cases, the nightmares are related to an underlying condition, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while others are considered “idiopathic,” or having no known cause It’s estimated that about 4% of adults have nightmares that are frequent and distressing enough to impair their sleep and daily functioning. In some cases, the nightmares are related to an underlying condition, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while others are considered “idiopathic,” or having no known cause. “Most people either think it’s normal to have so many nightmares, or they don’t know there’s treatment available,” said Jennifer Mundt, PhD, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine and assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. When it comes to nightmare disorder, as it’s officially known, the treatment with the best evidence is imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT), Mundt said. With that technique, people work with a therapist to recall their nightmares, change the negative storyline to one with a positive ending, and then rehearse the new script during the day.

People plagued by frequent nightmares may find relief from hearing a specific sound as they sleep, a new, small study suggests. It’s estimated that about 4% of adults have nightmares that are frequent and distressing enough to impair their sleep and daily functioning. In some cases, the nightmares are related to an underlying condition, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while others are considered “idiopathic,” or having no known cause. “Most people either think it’s normal to have so many nightmares, or they don’t know there’s treatment available,” said Jennifer Mundt, PhD, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine and professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. When it comes to nightmare disorder, as it’s officially known, the treatment with the best evidence is imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT), Mundt said. With that technique, people work with a therapist to recall their nightmares, change the negative storyline to one with a positive ending, and then rehearse the new script during the day. Research shows that IRT can start to banish people’s nightmares within two to three weeks. While the sound therapy is not yet available in the real world, Mundt said it’s important that nightmare sufferers know there is already effective treatment out there.

Rates of uterine cancer have been increasing in the United States, particularly for Black and Hispanic women. When we talk about uterine cancer, most of the time, we’re talking about endometrial cancer, which starts in cells that form the lining of the uterus, said Emily Hinchcliff, MD, MPH, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The other, much rarer, type of uterine cancer is uterine sarcoma, which develops in the muscles supporting the uterus. Abnormal bleeding is the most common symptom of uterine cancer. For younger women, a change in bleeding pattern — including bleeding between periods and heavy bleeding in general — can be a symptom of uterine cancer. Other early symptoms of uterine cancer include pelvic pain or pressure. Patients might experience bloating or changes in their bowel habits, which could look like constipation or diarrhea, Hinchcliff said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seeing your doctor if symptoms persist for two weeks or longer.

Antiretroviral therapy, or ART, is a safe and proven way to treat HIV. You doctor will want you to start right away – usually the same day you’re diagnosed. This is called rapid-start ART. Early and effective treatment can help you live a normal life. It can also lower the chances you’ll pass the virus to someone else. The sooner you start, the better. That’s true even if you feel good. “There’s no upside to waiting,” says Shannon Galvin, MD, associate professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Northwestern Medicine. “Everyone who has HIV will benefit from being on treatment, no matter what their T-cell count is.” Effective ART can lower your viral load so much that blood tests won’t be able to find it. That doesn’t just keep you well. It means there’s pretty much no chance that you’ll sexually transmit the virus to someone else. In the past, doctors gave rapid-start ART to people with a very low CD4 count. But now, anyone with HIV is likely to get it. “We have hard data that shows everybody (with HIV) lives longer and healthier if they’re on antiretrovirals,” Galvin says. ART is even more important for those that are pregnant, have a low CD4 count or an AIDS-defining condition.

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