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Pollution Tied to 9 Million Deaths Worldwide in 2015

FRIDAY, Oct. 20, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Pollution led to more than 9 million deaths worldwide in 2015, or 1 in 6 deaths that year, a new report reveals. Air pollution, the worst culprit, was linked to 6.5 million heart- and lung-related deaths, The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health said. Water pollution was tied to 1.8 million deaths, mostly from gastrointestinal and parasitic infections. And workplace-related pollution and lead pollution also played a role, contributing to 800,000 deaths and 500,000 deaths, respectively. "Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge — it is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and well-being," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, co-lead of the commission. "It deserves the full attention of international leaders, civil society, health professionals, and people around the world," added Landrigan, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. The report is published in the Oct. 20 online issue of The Lancet. Two years in the making, it involved more than 40 international health and environmental authors. Air pollution-related deaths were attributed to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the report said. Occupational pollution led to deadly diseases such as pneumoconiosis (a lung disease caused by inhaling irritants) in coal workers; bladder cancer in dye workers; and asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and other cancers in workers exposed to asbestos, according to the report. Meanwhile, high blood pressure, kidney failure and heart disease contributed to deaths related to lead pollution. "Our goal is to raise global awareness of the importance of pollution, and mobilize the political will needed to tackle it, by providing the most in-depth estimates of pollution and health available," Landrigan said in a journal news release. Nearly all pollution-linked deaths (92 percent) were in low- and middle-income countries. In rapidly industrializing countries — such as Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, Kenya and Madagascar — pollution-linked deaths accounted for up to 1 in 4 of all fatalities, the report said. China and India suffered the most pollution-linked deaths — 4.3 million between them. The report authors said many emerging chemical pollutants remain unidentified, so the report likely underestimates the true extent of pollution-related disease and death. Richard Fuller, who also led the commission, said the way to tackle pollution is to make it a priority in terms of planning, research and finding. He is a founder of Pure Earth, a nonprofit group involved in pollution cleanup and prevention. "Pollution can be eliminated, and pollution prevention can be highly cost-effective — helping to improve health and extend life span, while boosting the economy," said Fuller. This has been seen in richer countries where legislation has helped to curb the most flagrant forms of pollution, he added. The result has been cleaner air and water, lower blood lead concentrations, removal of hazardous waste sites, and less polluted and more livable cities, Fuller said. More information The World Health Organization has more on the environment and health. Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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Ulster Hospital discrimination case over food allergies

A mother whose daughters have "life-threatening" food allergies took a discrimination case against a hospital after one had an allergic reaction. Maire-Iosa McVicker took her case after her children were twice exposed to food in an allergy clinic's waiting room. The waiting room in the Ulster Hospital originally had signs banning food and drink because of the risk to patients. The South Eastern Trust apologised after signs were removed and agreed to provide a specialised food-free room. 'Worried sick' The family was assisted in taking the disability discrimination case by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. Seven-year-old Aoibhe O'Donnell and her three-year-old sister, Meabh, attend regular appointments at the Ulster Hospital's allergy clinic. The girls both suffer from food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES). The condition can result in "severe physical reactions leading to physiological shock when they come into contact with certain trigger foods," according to the commission. When the signs banning food and drink from the clinic's waiting room were removed, the family said they encountered two occasions where people were eating and drinking in the restricted area. On the first occasion, Aoibhe experienced an allergic reaction and the second time Ms McVicker removed her daughters from the room to keep them safe. "I came to the Equality Commission because I was worried sick about the exposure of my girls to what could be a life-threatening allergic reaction," she said. 'Great relief' "I felt that the trust, by allowing people to eat in the waiting room, had failed to make a reasonable adjustment which would help safeguard my daughters' health," said Ms McVicker. After settling her case, she said it was a "great relief" that the trust had come up with a solution to the problem. It has agreed to provide a separate parents' room which will be supervised at all times by a member of staff who will monitor the food and drink ban. The walls will be constructed of "fire glazing glass" and entry to the room will only be possible by swiping an electronic pass belonging to authorised staff. It will have clear signage informing the public of the ban and the room will be regularly cleaned with feedback from infection control. The work will begin next year as part of a wider refurbishment of the hospital's paediatric outpatients department. Until construction is complete, the trust will provide an interim waiting room where the food ban is monitored. Ms McVicker said the measures "will be of huge benefit to my children and to any others with similar conditions". The South Eastern Health apologised for "any upset and distress experienced" and settled the case without any admission of liability. Its director of hospital services, Seamus McGoran, said: "We recognise the challenges faced by children and parents living with complex allergies and are delighted that we have been able to find a solution for Aoibhe, Meabh and others when they attend for appointments." Anne McKernan from the Equality Commission, said: "This is a good example where, by using the opportunity provided by a refurbishment already scheduled, a reasonable adjustment has been made which will be of great benefit to the O'Donnell family and others in their position. "Every organisation providing services to the public, whether public or private, has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to make it easier for people with disabilities to use their services. "In this case the settlement involves no monetary compensation – but it does contain undertakings to provide a safe place for two little girls with a rare and serious condition." Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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Pollution linked to one in six deaths

Pollution has been linked to nine million deaths worldwide in 2015, a report in The Lancet has found. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, where pollution could account for up to a quarter of deaths. Bangladesh and Somalia were the worst affected. Air pollution had the biggest impact, accounting for two-thirds of deaths from pollution. Brunei and Sweden had the lowest numbers of pollution-related deaths. Most of these deaths were caused by non-infectious diseases linked to pollution, such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. "Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge – it is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and wellbeing," said the study's author, Prof Philip Landrigan, of the Icahn School of Medicine, at Mount Sinai in New York. The biggest risk factor, air pollution, contributed to 6.5 million premature deaths. This included pollution from outdoor sources, such as gases, and in households, such as burning wood or charcoal indoors. The next largest risk factor, water pollution, accounted for 1.8 million deaths, while pollution in the workplace was linked to 800,000 deaths globally. About 92% of these deaths occurred in poorer countries, with the greatest impact felt in places undergoing rapid economic development such as India, which had the fifth highest level of pollution deaths, and China, which had the 16th. How bad is air pollution in the UK? In the UK, about 8% or 50,000 deaths are estimated to be linked to pollution. This puts the UK in 55th place out of the 188 countries measured, placing them behind the US and many European countries, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark. Dr Penny Woods, of the British Lung Foundation, said: "Air pollution is reaching crisis point worldwide, and the UK is faring worse than many countries in Western Europe and the US. "A contributing factor could be our dependence on diesel vehicles, notorious for pumping out a higher amount of poisonous particles and gases. "These hit people with a lung condition, children and the elderly hardest." In the United States, more than 5.8% – or 155,000 – deaths could be linked to pollution. The authors said air pollution affected the poor disproportionately, including those in poor countries as well as poor people in wealthy countries. Study author Karti Sandilya, from Pure Earth, a non-governmental organisation, said: "Pollution, poverty, poor health, and social injustice are deeply intertwined. "Pollution threatens fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, health, wellbeing, safe work, as well as protections of children and the most vulnerable." The results were the product of a two-year project. The authors have published an interactive map illustrating their data. Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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3 Million Americans Say They Carry Handguns Every Day

THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — About 3 million Americans carry a loaded handgun with them on a daily basis, a new survey reveals. Another 9 million U.S. adults reported they carry their weapons on them on a monthly basis. "Carrying firearms in public places can have significant implications for public health and public safety," said study lead author Ali Rowhani-Rahbar. "An important first step to examining the consequences of firearm carrying at the national level is an accurate measurement of the occurrence of this behavior and characterization of those who engage in it," he noted. Rowhani-Rahbar, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington's School of Public Health, made his comments in a school news release. For the study, the researchers reviewed data from a 2015 survey of almost 1,500 gun owners. They found that those who carried a loaded handgun tended to be younger and male. They also tended to live in the southern United States and grew up in gun-owning homes. People carrying guns were more likely to identify as politically conservative, and to own more than one type of gun. Many of those who carried a loaded handgun said they did so for protection. Eighty percent of those who carried their handgun had a concealed-carry permit, and 66 percent said they always carried their handguns concealed. Ten percent said they always carried their guns openly. "It was important to study handgun carrying, because about 90 percent of all firearm homicides and nonfatal firearm crimes for which the type of firearm is known are committed with a handgun," Rowhani-Rahbar said. The study was published Oct. 19 in the American Journal of Public Health. More information The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has more on gun violence. Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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State Laws Help Reduce Concussions in Youth Sports

THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — State laws aimed at curbing an alarming rise in concussions among student athletes appear to be working. Since 2014, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to protect young athletes against traumatic brain injury (TBI). Washington state was the first in 2009. Most of the laws require athletes with suspected concussions to stop playing until a doctor clears them to return. Coaches, players and parents must also receive yearly education about concussion. "This movement to get these laws passed has made a huge difference," said Kenneth Podell, director of the Houston Methodist Concussion Center, who reviewed a new study assessing the laws. Led by Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, researchers examined concussion reports to a nationwide sports injury tracking program before and after the laws were passed. The data covered nine high school sports: football, boys' basketball, soccer, baseball and wrestling as well as girls' basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball. The takeaway: Players were more likely to report a concussion, and the number of repeat injuries fell dramatically after the laws went into effect. Between fall 2005 and spring 2016, student athletes reported about 2.7 million concussions. Of those, 89 percent were new and 11 percent were repeat injuries. In 2005, nearly 135,000 initial concussions were reported. The number jumped to more than 360,000 by 2016. Principal investigator Ginger Yang attributed the increase in "new concussions" to increased awareness of symptoms and reporting. Before the laws, many people simply didn't know how to recognize a concussion, so suspected or actual injuries were never reported, she said. Yang is with the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Predictably, football players sustained the most concussions, accounting for about half of those reported. Girls who played soccer had the second-highest rate, according to the study. After concussion laws were introduced, however, repeat injuries fell dramatically, from about 14 percent of all concussions in 2005 to roughly 7 percent in 2016. Podell said the added attention created by the laws has been a game-changer. "More and more, year after year, as time goes on more kids self-report symptoms and pull themselves out of the game," he said. "This will pay dividends down the road." Despite improvements in reporting and managing concussions, however, Yang said more must be done to protect players. "Our results, along with those of others, can be used as evidence for the need of more public health efforts that focus on preventing concussions in the first place, such as preventing or reducing initial head or body impact," she said. Other strategies could include setting limits on heading the ball in soccer and stricter adherence to rules. An estimated 1 million to 2 million people age 18 or younger sustain a concussion in the United States each year during sports or other recreational activities. These injuries can have lasting effects on developing brains, including personality changes and problems with thinking and coordination, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multiple concussions over an extended period can have cumulative effects. The study was published Oct. 19 in the American Journal of Public Health. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on sports concussion laws. Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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Obamacare Widened Access to Cancer Care

THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — More U.S. cancer patients gained insurance they needed for their care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), new research reveals. Researchers tracked government data on more than 858,000 adults aged 19 to 64 with a first-time cancer diagnosis. The uninsured rate fell from just over 5.7 percent between 2010-2013 to about 3.8 percent in 2014, when the ACA health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion went into effect, the study found. Increases in coverage occurred for people with numerous types of cancer, those with early- and late-stage disease, and among different ethnic/racial groups, the study found. The finding has real implications for patients, the researchers say, as Congress wrestles with a potential repeal or replacement of Obamacare. "Policy changes that reduce Medicaid funding or weaken protections for individuals with pre-existing condition could be particularly harmful for patients with cancer," conclude a team led by Aparna Soni, of the business school at Indiana University, in Bloomington. According to the study, the number of uninsured Americans with cancer fell in 2014 in states that experienced Medicaid expansion due to the ACA. On the other hand, that number didn't budge in states without Medicaid expansion. Two hospital administrators agreed that the findings offer insights into future health of Americans with cancer. The findings, "suggest that the ACA saved lives, especially in those states with Medicaid expansion," said Dr. Michael Grosso, chief medical officer at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. "Future health policy decisions must be undertaken with the understanding that the legislative pen is a powerful tool that can save or cost real lives when health care coverage is at stake," he added. Dr. Theodore Maniatis is medical director of the Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. He believes there are many barriers to cancer care, especially for lower-income Americans. "The number of health insurance plans, restrictions, co-pays, deductibles etc. that exist is almost unmanageable," he said. "Doctors' offices and hospitals have difficulties dealing with the different rules and regulations of these insurance plans. Patients usually find it mind-boggling." Rising co-pays and deductibles lead to "yearly out-of-pocket expenses [that] for some plans adds up to several thousands of dollars, which makes many healthcare services unaffordable for these individuals." For their part, Soni's team acknowledged certain study limitations. These include use of data from only 13 states and tracking outcomes for only one year after the ACA took effect. The findings appear in a research letter published Oct. 19 in the journal JAMA Oncology. More information The American Cancer Society offers resources to help pay for cancer treatment. Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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Is a Dangerous Bird Flu on the Horizon?

THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Scientists have found new evidence that the H7N9 bird flu, currently confined to China, has the potential for a widespread outbreak. Public health experts have long been tracking the bird flu strain, which emerged in humans in 2013. Since then, nearly 1,600 cases have been confirmed in China — with a death rate of about 40 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There's no evidence that H7N9 can be readily passed from person to person. There have been only isolated cases of human transmission, the CDC says, with most people falling ill because of contaminated poultry. However, public health officials have been worried about H7N9's potential to eventually trigger a pandemic, or global outbreak. The new study could add to those concerns. Researchers found that samples of H7N9 were easily transmitted among ferrets — an animal "model" that is considered the best proxy for human flu infection. And those infections were often lethal. "I want to be clear that there is no sustained transmission of H7N9 among humans at this point," said senior researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And at the moment," he added, "it's confined to China." However, Kawaoka explained, influenza viruses constantly mutate, and it's possible for a strain to become more virulent, more resistant to drugs or more easily transmissible. One infectious diseases expert agreed. "This study reinforces two points. Highly pathogenic H7N9 poses an important public health risk. And these viruses evolve over time, so the risk can change," said Dr. Matthew Zahn, chair of the public health committee at the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "This is an important reminder that surveillance needs to continue." Since 2013, there have been annual outbreaks of H7N9 in China, according to the CDC. The most recent one is the largest yet, the agency says — with 764 cases reported as of Sept. 17. In past outbreaks, officials had detected only "low pathogenic" H7N9 viruses, which do not make chickens or other domestic poultry overtly sick. More recently, though, there's been an emergence of highly infectious H7N9 viruses, which do sicken and kill the animals. And in the most recent China outbreak, at least 25 people have been infected with those viruses, according to Kawaoka's team. For their study, the researchers analyzed a virus sample from a patient in China who'd died of a highly pathogenic H7N9 infection. They found that the virus had begun to mutate: Some viral cells were vulnerable to the drug Tamiflu (which the patient had received), while others had developed resistance. Next, the researchers created two viruses that mimicked the patient's sample: one that was sensitive to Tamiflu, and one that was resistant. They compared those three viruses with a low-pathogenic version of H7N9. The researchers found that all of the viruses infected mice and ferrets, but the highly infectious bugs made the animals more severely ill, including some lethal infections. And, it turned out, all of the viruses were easily passed through the air among ferrets housed in cages next to one another. The researchers also confirmed that the drug-resistant H7N9 virus did not respond to the active ingredient in Tamiflu. It was, however, susceptible to a drug called favipiravir (Avigan), which is currently approved only in Japan. It's hard to judge how well drugs like Tamiflu have worked against H7N9 in China, Kawaoka said. The medications should ideally be given within two days of the first symptoms, and many patients get them too late, he explained. In a recent report, the CDC said that of virus samples tested from the latest outbreak, over 10 percent had evidence of reduced susceptibility to current flu drugs. For now, Kawaoka said, it's clear that ongoing surveillance of H7N9 is critical. He noted that the emergence of highly pathogenic viruses has a positive side: Because the infections are now sickening food animals, outbreaks are easier to detect. The study was published Oct. 19 in Cell Host & Microbe. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an overview of H7N9 bird flu. Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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Lying Down After an Epidural: A Smart Idea?

THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Lying down after an epidural increases a first-time mother's chances of having a normal birth, a new study suggests. With an epidural, a tube is inserted into a space below the spinal cord, and small doses of painkillers can be given during childbirth. More than 50 percent of U.S. women in labor have an epidural for pain relief, according to the American Pregnancy Association. But having an epidural increases the risk of having to use instruments — such as forceps or suction — during childbirth. It's been suggested that lying down after receiving an epidural may improve the likelihood of a spontaneous birth, the British researchers said. To investigate that theory, the study authors looked at nearly 3,100 first-time mothers in British hospitals. The women 16 and older, and received a low-dose epidural while in labor. About half laid down afterwards, while half stayed in an upright position. About 41 percent of those in the lying down group had a spontaneous birth, compared with about 35 percent of those in the upright group. There were no short- or long-term disadvantages for mothers or infants in either group, the researchers said. The report by Peter Brocklehurst, from the University of Birmingham, and colleagues was published Oct. 18 in the BMJ. Lying down "appears to be easy and cost-free to adopt. This evidence will allow pregnant women, in consultation with their health care providers, to make informed choices about their position in the second stage of labor," the study authors said in a journal news release. More information The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more on labor and birth. Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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‘Handful of changes’ make cancer

British scientists have worked out how many changes it takes to transform a healthy cell into a cancer. The team, at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, showed the answer was a tiny handful, between one and 10 mutations depending on the type of tumour. It has been one of the most hotly debated issues in cancer science for decades. The findings, published in the journal Cell, could improve treatment for patients. If you played spot the difference between a cancer and healthy tissue, you could find tens of thousands of differences – or mutations – in the DNA. Some are driving the cancer's growth, while others are just along for the ride. So which ones are important? Root cause The researchers analysed the DNA from 7,664 tumours to find "driver mutations" that allow a cell to be more selfish, aggressive and cancerous. They showed it could take: just one mutation to drive thyroid and testicular cancers four mutations to make a breast or liver cancer 10 mutations to create a colorectal cancer. Dr Peter Campbell, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: "We've known about the genetic basis of cancer for many decades now, but how many mutations are responsible has been incredibly hotly debated. "What we've been able to do in this study is really provide the first unbiased numbers. "And it seems that of the thousands of mutations in a cancer genome, only a small handful are responsible for dictating the way the cell behaves, what makes it cancerous." Half the mutations identified were in sets of genetic instructions – or genes – that had never been implicated in cancer before. Therapy The long-term goal is to advance precision cancer treatment. If doctors know which few mutations, out of thousands, were driving a patient's cancer, it could allow drugs that specifically targeted that mutation to be used. Drugs such as herceptin and Braf inhibitors are already used to attack specific mutations in tumours. The researchers were able to pick out the mutations that were driving the growth of cancer by turning to Charles Darwin and evolutionary theory. In essence, driver mutations should appear more often in tumours than "neutral" mutations that do not make the cell cancerous. This is because the forces of natural selection give an evolutionary advantage to mutations that help a cell grow and divide more readily. Dr Nicholas McGranahan, from the Cancer Research UK and the UCL Cancer Institute, said the approach was "elegant". He said: "Cancer is a disease that evolves and changes over time, and it makes sense to use ideas like this from species evolution to work out the genetic faults that cause cancer to grow. "But as this study focuses on one part of cancer evolution, it can only give us insight into part of the puzzle. "Other components such as how DNA is packaged into chromosomes are also key in how a tumour progresses and will need to be looked at to give us a clearer picture of how cancer evolves." Follow James on Twitter. Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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People Deemed Better Looking, Better Off After a Nose Job

THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Is a "nose job" worth it? And if so, how much? A new study suggests that casual observers may think patients who undergo such procedures are more attractive, more successful and healthier. "While we are not suggesting that [a nose job] is the only way to improve one's appearance, improving our attractiveness and health as compared to others conveys a competitive advantage," said study co-author and plastic surgeon Dr. Lisa Ishii. More than 220,000 "nose reshaping" procedures — known as rhinoplasty — were performed in the United States in 2016, up 2 percent from the previous year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The procedures are nearly as common as liposuction. The new study examines how "casual observers" perceive people after they've had a nose job, said Ishii, a plastic surgeon and associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. "Patients seeking rhinoplasty do so for two main reasons: to improve their self-perception and to improve how others perceive them," she said. "We wanted to measure the second one." The researchers recruited 473 people online to evaluate the appearance of 13 rhinoplasty patients. Observers ranged in age from 18 to 73. Most were female and white, and highly educated. The researchers deemed the patients' post-op results "optimal." They showed the observers photos taken before the nose reshaping and at least 6 months after. But they didn't reveal whether they were "before" or "after" images, and the observers never saw more than one picture of the same patient. The patients were mostly female, with an average age of 34. Most "had nose problems that were visible to the casual observer and they wanted to look better," Ishii said. She added that a prior study showed that the casual observer "actually picks up on even subtle nasal deformities." Her team asked the observers to rate patients in terms of attractiveness, success level and overall health based on their photos. On a scale of 1 to 100, the average patient's attractiveness rating improved by 14 points after remodeling, the researchers found. Ratings of success and health rose 9 and 10 points, respectively, after surgery. Ishii called the degree of improvement significant, and said this gives patients information about how nose jobs may affect them. "More attractive people are more successful," she said. "It's up to patients to decide whether that's worth it to them." Insurers don't usually cover nose jobs, however. The cost can range from $6,000 to $25,000 "depending on the complexity of the procedure and the reputation of the surgeon," said plastic surgeon Dr. Clinton Humphrey. He's an associate professor with the University of Kansas Health System. "It is important not to misinterpret these study results," cautioned Humphrey, co-author of a commentary accompanying the new research. "This study included only patients with what were judged by surgeons to be 'ideal' results. Rhinoplasty continues to be one of the most challenging cosmetic surgical procedures," he said. "While I always strive to achieve the best possible outcome in every one of my rhinoplasty patients, I do not achieve an 'ideal' result every time," Humphrey said. "It would be a mistake to read this study and conclude that every patient who undergoes rhinoplasty can expect to be perceived as more successful, healthier, and more attractive," he added. Still, he said, "patients should feel reassured that what we as rhinoplasty surgeons consider to be 'ideal' results are also viewed very favorably by the average person," Humphrey said. "As a surgeon, this study tells me that when I execute a successful rhinoplasty, I have an opportunity to positively impact my patient in a really significant way." The study appears Oct. 19 in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. More information For more about nose jobs, visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Let's block ads! (Why?) Original Article

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