The Alex G. Spanos Heart & Vascular Center opens on the campus of Mercy General Hospital this month. Check out our sneak peek inside this state of the art facility here and learn more about the building and the world class heart care it will house here.

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Immunizations: Know the Facts

Information provided by the Centers for Disease Control

If you are a new parent or about to become a parent, one of the most important things you need to do is familiarize yourself with the immunizations your child will need. Keeping your child up to date on her immunizations is very important, not only for her health but for the health of everyone around her. Immunization gives you the power to protect your baby from 14 serious childhood diseases. As a parent, it is your job to sift through rumors and falsehoods and learn the facts.

Serious Disease Still Exists

Reducing and eliminating the diseases that vaccines prevent is one of the top achievements in the history of public health. But, because of this success, most young parents have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like polio, measles or whooping cough (pertussis) can have on a family or community. It's easy to think of these as diseases that only existed in the past. But the truth is they still exist. Children in the United States can – and do – still get some of these diseases. In fact, when vaccination rates drop in a community, it's not uncommon to have an outbreak.

For example, preliminary data for 2012 show that more than 41,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the United States. During this time, 18 deaths have been reported – the majority of these deaths were in children younger than 3 months of age.

In addition, parents need to know that serious diseases that are no longer present in the US can still exist in other countries. All it takes is a plane ride for an infected person to bring that disease to your community.

US Vaccines are Safe and Effective

The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. Before a vaccine is approved and given to children, it is tested extensively. As new information and science become available, vaccine recommendations are updated.

Although there may be some discomfort or tenderness at the injection site, this is minor compared to the serious complications that can result from the diseases these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects from vaccines are very rare.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – a group of medical and public health experts. This schedule also is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The recommended childhood immunization schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable.

Vaccines Protect Everyone

Getting your child vaccinated helps protect others in your community – like your neighbor who has cancer and cannot get certain vaccines, or your best friend's newborn baby who is too young to be fully vaccinated. When everyone in a community who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated, it helps to prevent the spread of disease and can slow or stop an outbreak. Choosing to protect your child with vaccines is also a choice to help protect your family, friends, and neighbors, too.

For more reasons to vaccinate, talk with your child's doctor, call 800-CDC-INFO, or visit

If you are thinking about having a baby, mark your calendar for Baby Steps!

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Listen to Your Hands

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Listen to Your Hands

By Zahid Niazi, MD

Women are notorious for not being proactive when it comes to their health. This is true even when it comes to their hands. While that nagging ache or the recurring pins-and-needles may seem like no big deal, stop and consider what you would do if one of your hands lost function... Typing at work, cooking dinner for your family, working out at the gym... Many of your daily activities would suddenly become next to impossible. So if your hands are trying to tell you something – listen to them!

Among the hand conditions commonly experienced by girls and women experience are arthritis, triggering (also known as trigger finger), and fractures or cuts caused by injury or accident. However, the most common hand ailment among women is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This condition – which can affect women of any age – occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand that houses the median nerve and tendons. When the tendons are irritated, thickening or swelling can occur which causes the compression on the nerve that is associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can cause pain, weakness or numbness in the hand and/or wrist. The sensation can radiate up the arm. Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often start gradually with burning, tingling, itching or numbness in the palm, thumb or index and middle fingers. People often report feeling their symptoms while they sleep or when they first wake up in the morning (this is because many people flex their wrists during sleep), while driving or while holding a phone to their ear. As symptoms progress, people might feel tingling or a pins-and-needles sensation more during the day. As the condition worsens, sufferers may notice decreased grip strength. Eventually, if left untreated the muscles at the base of the thumb may flatten due to atrophy.

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the early stages is critical. The more damage that is done to nerves, the more intense the treatment will be, with longer recovery period and lowering degree of success. In the early stages, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication, a wrist splint, or – in some cases – a low dose steroid injection. Success of treatment depends on the duration of compression and the severity of compression – a Neurologist can help determine if the compression is mild, moderate or severe.

If the condition worsens or is left untreated for a significant period of time, surgery may be necessary. Surgery to treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome involves an incision at the base of the thumb where the surgeon will release the ligament, relieving pressure on the nerve. Recovery from the surgery occurs in two stages: 1) Surgical recovery, which takes 2-3 weeks and involves recovering from the anesthesia and allowing the incision wound to heal; and 2) Nerve recovery, which can vary from a couple months to 6-12 months, depending on the damage to the nerve.

If Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is allowed to progress, untreated, for a couple years or more it can cause permanent nerve damage. Many women, in particular, will write off hand pain as a sign of aging or something that will go away on its own. However, as with all things related to our health, we need to pay attention to what our body is telling us. In the case of our hands, pain, numbness and tingling are all signs that something is wrong. Talk to your primary care doctor about any of these symptoms and pursue a diagnosis. You never realize how valuable your hands are until they no longer function properly!

Learn more about Dr. Niazi and Methodist Hospital's Orthopedic program here.

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