December 18, 2018 7:00 AM

Top Stories of 2018

A look back on the year’s most popular Michigan Medicine stories and the groundbreaking studies that made global headlines.

As always, forward-thinking research that propels patient care, blazes new paths to identify and treat disease, and improves the business of health care supplied the pillars of Michigan Health Lab.

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So, too, did the hundreds of researchers and staff making the advancements a reality.

Here are the Lab’s most-read stories of 2018:

10. One Medical Student’s Mission to Erase Stigma of Depression

Depression affects more than one-quarter of medical students, according to a comprehensive analysis of nearly 200 studies. And it’s a rate of depression two to five times higher than that of the U.S. population.

Rahael Gupta knows this. The University of Michigan medical student, who took time off to address her mental health, is speaking out on behalf of others who may be struggling. Here’s how Gupta and her school are working to change the conversation.

Read the full story.

9. OSA in Older Adults: Often Present, Seldom Investigated

The risk of obstructive sleep apnea is high among older Americans. But few patients are aware: Just 8 percent of people ages 65 and older have been tested for the disorder, even though 56 percent of this age group are at high risk.

“[M]issing a diagnosis could ultimately lead to a higher risk of conditions like hypertension, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and depression, as well as cognitive impairment, which is especially important for older individuals,” says Tiffany Braley, M.D., a Michigan Medicine neurologist and co-first author of a study examining the divide.

Read the full story.

8. Efforts to Curb Risky Sedative Use Bring Progress, Challenges

Benzodiazepines might help older Americans sleep or feel calmer, but the potent medications also double the risk of car crashes, falls and broken hips.

Newer antidepressants and nondrug psychotherapy have been shown to help ease many symptoms that prompt doctors to prescribe benzodiazepines in the first place. They also lack the associated risks, notes Donovan Maust, M.D., M.S., an assistant professor of geriatric psychiatry at the U-M Medical School.

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7. 10 Things the First Year of Medical School Taught Me

The first year of medical school presents incoming students with countless challenges and opportunities new classmates, new teachers and mountains of new information to process in a limited time.

That’s why preparation and perspective are important. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, says Angelica Willis, MPH, a former Michigan M1 who offered 10 tips for success. “[T]here is, in fact, a lot of sacrifice involved in this process,” she says, but “it will definitely be worth it on the other side.”

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6. In First Test, Specially Timed Signals Ease Tinnitus Symptoms

Millions of Americans hear ringing in their ears from a condition called tinnitus. An experimental device could help quiet the phantom sounds by targeting unruly nerve activity in the brain, new research finds.

The device, which uses precisely timed sounds and weak electrical pulses that activate touch-sensitive nerves, helped patients reduce the noise and improve quality of life after four weeks. “We’re definitely encouraged by these results,” says U-M’s Susan Shore, Ph.D., who led the research.

Read the full story.

5. Teen Meets the Heart That Almost Killed Him

After successful transplant surgery, a teen with a fatal heart condition received the chance to see his former heart up close at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Doctors routinely examine failed organs up close for educational purposes but it’s uncommon for a patient to request a peek.

Notes the brave young patient: “I think some people might get creeped out, but I thought it was pretty cool.”

Read the full story.

4. Linking Immunotherapy with a Serious Eye Condition

New immunotherapy treatments offer a remarkable chance for survival for patients with advanced melanoma and hard-to-treat cancers of the bladder, kidney and lung. Those treatments also come with risk, research published in JAMA Ophthalmology finds.

Although rare, they can attack healthy organs, including the eye. “The immune system is tricky,” says Merina Thomas, M.D., of U-M’s Kellogg Eye Center. “It can help fight cancer cells but can also start fighting the body itself and cause side effects such as uveal effusions.”

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3. Chiropractic Treatment and Vision Loss: How They're Related

In rare occurrences, forceful manipulation of the neck is linked to a damaging side effect: vision problems and bleeding inside the eye. It’s something most people don’t consider when visiting a chiropractor, says Yannis Paulus, M.D., a Kellogg retina specialist.

“Chiropractic manipulation has been associated with numerous eye conditions, primarily due to harm of the carotid artery,” says Paulus, referring to the major artery in the neck that brings blood to the brain and head. He and colleagues analyzed the specifics of this rare injury from the treatment.

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2. What Doctors Wear Really Does Matter to Patients

More than 4,000 patients have spoken: They prefer physicians in business attire and a white coat, or at least scrubs and a white coat. Survey respondents saw photos of providers in seven different outfits and evaluated their appearance on a variety of characteristics.

The survey, published in BMJ Open, found that white coats received the highest marks for approachability. Based on the results, researchers call for more hospitals, health systems and practice groups to examine their dress standards for doctors or create them if needed.

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1. Moms of Obese Children Use Different Words to Restrict Eating

Caregivers of obese children are 90 percent more likely to use direct statements to prevent children from eating junk food, new Mott research has found. Firm imperatives from adults are tied to improved behavior in most areas, but the notion is trickier when it comes to food and weight.

It’s why the sensitivities of this issue need more attention. “We hope to find better answers to the ultimate question of what parents should do to help set their child up for healthy eating long term,” says Megan Pesch, M.D., a Mott pediatrician and the study’s lead author.

Read the full story.