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Medical Advances That’ll Change Your Life

Each day, the news is filled with the latest developments in medicine and health. Local hospitals regularly unveil new equipment and new procedures. Breakthroughs come at a rapid pace.

I went searching for both the exciting new discoveries already here and those advances just on the horizon, things that local doctors are enthusiastic about. The one common denominator? They all made me sit up and say, “Wow.” I think you’ll have the same reaction.




Oral Obesity Surgery

You’ve tried every diet in the book (I have, too!) and can’t seem to make them stick. Now comes word about an amazing new weight-loss surgery. Basically, a doctor snakes a hose down your throat and staples part of your stomach. This slows the food moving through and makes you feel fuller. After 18 months, test patients in Europe lost an average of 45 percent of their body weight—all with no cuts through the abdomen. This greatly reduces the risk of complications, scarring and other negatives of more traditional weight-loss surgery.

Status: Preliminary. Human test studies are underway with results expected in 2010.


Onyx Procedure

Years ago, a good friend of mine suffered a brain aneurism. She’s had complications and multiple surgeries ever since. Medical experts say that up to two percent of the population walks around with an aneurism—a weakening of an arterial wall in the brain that creates a dangerous bubble. That’s why I was so intrigued about a new procedure that can prevent these bubbles from bursting. It’s called the Onyx procedure. Surgeons insert a catheter through the groin all the way to the site of the aneurism. There, a putty-like material is applied that instantly solidifies. It expands until it blocks the blood flowing into the aneurism, ending the threat of a rupture.

Status: Available at select hospitals, including HealthPark Medical Center in Lee County, which was the first to perform the procedure in Florida.




Macula Risk

Slowing or preventing vision loss may be as simple as a little spit. That’s the word from the brains behind Macula Risk, a new test that uses saliva to search your DNA for genetic markers responsible for vision loss, specifically age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Here in Southwest Florida, there are many people dealing with vision loss or worried they’ve inherited it from relatives. With this new test, people can find out their risk much earlier and begin treatments that could slow or prevent AMD.

Status: Was available only in Canada. Now available at select clinics in the United States,
including Retina Consultants
of Southwest Florida.


Breast Specific Gamma Imaging

That name is a mouthful, so I’m going to call it gamma imaging from here on out. Basically, it’s a better way to detect possible breast cancer than the usual mammography, ultrasound and MRI. A patient receives a tracing agent, which spreads throughout the body. Because cancer cells have
a higher metabolic rate, they absorb more of the tracing agent and show up as “hot spots” under the imager. Docs say unlike older methods, which look at the physical structure of the breast, gamma imaging looks right down to the cellular level.

Status: Becoming more widely available, including at the Naples Diagnostic Imaging Center.


Kanzius Cancer Treatment

It’s been reported here and in other publications, but no discussion of exciting breakthroughs would be complete without a mention of the amazing potential cancer treatment developed by Sanibel resident John Kanzius. This visionary developed a way to inject gold nanoparticles into a cancer patient. The particles attach themselves to cancer cells, which are then heated and destroyed by radio waves. In April 2009, Kanzius was awarded a patent on his novel process. Sadly, he passed away two months prior from complications of leukemia.

Status: Researchers are working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop human trials. The hope is those will start by 2011, including at a Southwest Florida location.




Fruit Pearls

I recently received a press kit that was a bit different from the ordinary. It was huge, and a white, wispy smoke wafted out as I opened it. Inside, I found a frigid box of a new snack product called Fruit Pearls. After one bite, I was a believer. Based in Dundee, the creators of Fruit Pearls have found a way to flash freeze tiny bits of citrus fruit and mix them with tiny yogurt balls and other natural ingredients. Think of Dippin’ Dots, only with fruit. It’s a fat-free, low-calorie treat that is a great way to get your daily dose of fruit—with plenty of fiber and vitamins. My kids loved them, too.

Status: Available primarily online at www.fruit-pearls.com. Plans call for introductions to select grocery stores by 2010.

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