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5 December 2000 Annals of Internal Medicine Tip Sheet

Annals of Internal Medicine is published by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM), an organization of more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students. The following highlights are not intended to substitute for articles as sources of information. For an embargoed fax of an article, call 1-800-523-1546, ext. 2656 or 215-351-2656. Full content of the issue is available on the Internet at on December 5, 2000.

Procedure Effective in Treating Heart Rhythm Problem

Radiofrequency ablation, a cardiac procedure, improves the quality of life for patients with frequent supraventricular tachycardia attacks, a cost-effectiveness study finds (Article, p. 864). Radiofrequency ablation destroys a small section of heart tissue that causes the irregular heartbeat, or supraventricular tachycardia. The procedure reduces the number of attacks requiring emergency hospital or physician visits per year and, though expensive, is cost-effective in comparison to managing the condition with long-term drug therapy or treating the episodes as they occur.

Alternative Cancer Therapy Apparently Caused Death of One Patient

A cancer patient who refused traditional treatment and took hydrazine sulfate, a chemical compound he obtained through the Internet, died from liver and kidney failure, according to a case report (Brief Communication, p. 877). The authors surmise that the hydrazine sulfate, a chemical used in jet fuel, caused the death. Some studies have shown that hydrazine sulfate prevents severe weight loss suffered by some cancer patients. The compound is advertised on the Internet as having "virtually no significant untoward side effects." The authors stress the importance of reporting adverse events of both prescription and non-prescription therapies. An editorial says that, while existing studies show "little evidence to support its ability to shrink tumors or cure cancer," hydrazine sulfate has had relatively few reported serious side effects prior to this case report (Editorial, p. 911). Still, the editorial says, "there seems to be little justification for the drug's easy availability and unsupervised use."

Protein Erythropoietin Reduces Need for Transfusion After Hip Surgery

(Article, p. 845)

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