MedStar Health blog : MedStar Health

MedStar Health Blog

Featured Blog

  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 

    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.

    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 

    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.

    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.

    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.

    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.

    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 

    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.

    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 

    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog:
    Click to Tweet


    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.

    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.


    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!

    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

All Blogs

  • May 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    On Monday, April 30, nearly 900 investigators, educators, innovators, and associates came together at the 7th annual MedStar Health Research Symposium. Nearly 350 research posters and abstracts were presented by MedStar investigators and residents in eleven research areas. This event was also the second system-wide Resident Research Day, bringing residents and fellows from all of MedStar Health’s graduate medical education training programs.

    The day opened with Pre-Symposium Professional Development and Advancement Sessions in the early afternoon. Each session focuses on a specific academic topic. Topics spanned the MedStar Health research environment, from navigating the IRB process to joining the Georgetown University Medical Center as a faculty member to a review of the most commonly utilized statistical tests for research. These sessions were led by experts from the MedStar research team.

    Following the engaging educational sessions, top scoring residents and fellows presented their research in the White Flint Amphitheatre, with the presentations live-streamed to the main ballroom. Moderated by Munish Goyal, MD, FACEP, 2018 Symposium Vice Chair, the selected residents presented their research to a packed room. Resident and fellow presenters were:

    • Aline Camargo, MD
      Sepsis and Altered Mental Status—the Value of CT Head Imaging
    • Mausam Kuvadia, MD
      Infection Prevention in the Anesthesia Work Environment
    • John Burkett, MD
      The Use of Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block as a Treatment for Primary Headache Disorders—a Survey of the American Headache Society Membership
    • Sumit Kunwar, MD
      Efficacy and Safety of Baricitinib in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis—a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
    • Elizabeth Coviello, DO
      Blood Loss by Technique that Predicts Postpartum Transfusion in Women With Postpartum Hemorrhage

    Research at MedStar was on full display in the ballroom, showcasing high-caliber research from across the spectrum of healthcare. Each of the presented abstracts in the main ballroom was blind peer-reviewed by two members of the Scientific Committee prior to presentation. For the first year, the Symposium also included moderated poster sessions for the top 20% of resident submissions.

    The Research Symposium also included exhibits the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2), MedStar Philanthropy, the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (GHUCCTS), and the MedStar Health Research Institute (MHRI). MI2 presented their interactive MATCH (Matching Abstracts To Catalyze Healthcare) to connect researchers with potential collaborators through their poster submissions. The MedStar Philanthropy team reminded attendees that “Gratitude Matters” for research. From MHRI, the Office of Research Development, Office of Research Integrity, the Department of Biostatistics and Biomedical Informatics were among those on site to discuss how they can support research.

    On the main stage in the ballroom, Stephen Evans, MD, Executive Vice President, Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, MedStar Health, welcomed all the attendees to the event and reminded attendees of the importance of research. Edward B. Healton, MD, Executive Vice President, Health Sciences and Executive Dean, Georgetown University School of Medicine, highlighted the great work of residents and the impact of the MedStar Health partnership with Georgetown University.

    Neil J.Weissman, MD, Chief Scientific Officer, MedStar Health and President, MedStar Health Research Institute, introduced the “Gratitude Matters” video, which highlighted two MedStar Health research patients, their treatments and the impact that research has had on their lives. We were honored to have one of the patients and his family at the event, along with all the clinicians who are a part of the two research programs highlighted in attendance.

    Dr. Weissman also presented awards to the top three outstanding faculty abstracts to Anna Day, Tracy Kim and Natalie Shammas. Learn more about their research here.

    Jamie S. Padmore, DM, MSc, Vice President, Academic Affairs, MedStar Health, presented awards to the top scoring residents & fellows for their research abstracts. She also presented the 2018 Scholarly Excellence in Leadership Education Curriculum and Training (SELECT) grants to five educators to support their research into physician wellness and well-being.

    2018 Research Symposium was made possible under the leadership of the 2018 Committee Chair, Ana Barac, MD, PhD and Vice Chair, Munish Goyal, MD. The Symposium would not have been possible without the support of MedStar Health Research Institute and Academic Affairs associates who planned, prepared and staffed the event. The Pre-Symposium Professional Development and Advancement Sessions were facilitated by Emily Paku, PMP. The moderated poster session was facilitated by Cathy Gurgol.

    The 2018 Symposium was live-tweeted on both the @MedStarHealth and @MedStarResearch accounts. View the #MedStarResearch18 tag on Twitter to see all the posts from the event. To see more photos of the event, please visit Notes from Neil.

    If you have any questions about research or would like to be connected to an investigator or other resources, please contact

  • May 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who had articles published in April 2018. The selected articles and link to PubMed provided below represent the body of work completed by MedStar Health investigators, physicians, and associates and published in peer-reviewed journals last month. The list is compiled from PubMed for any author using “MedStar” in the author affiliation. Congratulations to this month’s authors. We look forward to seeing your future research.

    View the full list of publications on here.

     Selected research:

    1. Comparison of the Efficacy and Safety of Orbital and Rotational Atherectomy in Calcified Narrowings in Patients Who Underwent Percutaneous Coronary Intervention.
      American Journal of Cardiology, 2018. DOI: 1016/j.amjcard.2017.12.041
      Koifman E,Garcia-Garcia HM, Kuku KO, Kajita AH, Buchanan KD, Steinvil A, Rogers T, Bernardo NL, Lager R, Gallino RA, Ben-Dor I, Pichard AD, Torguson R, Gai J, Satler LF, Waksman R
    2. Matt's story: learning from heartbreak.
      International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 2018. DOI: 1093/intqhc/mzy076
      Miller KDastoli A
    3. Continuation of long-acting reversible contraceptives among Medicaid patients.
      Contraception, 2018. DOI: 1016/j.contraception.2018.04.012
      Romano MJ, Toye P, Patchen L
    4. Relationship Between Gonadal Function and Cardiometabolic Risk in Young Men With Chronic Spinal Cord Injury.
      PM&R, 2018.
      DOI: 1016/j.pmrj.2017.08.404
      Sullivan SD, Nash MS, Tefara E, Tinsley E, Groah S
    5. Thermal and Nonthermal Endovenous Ablation Options for Treatment of Superficial Venous Insufficiency.
      Surgical Clinics of North America, 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.suc.2017.11.014
      Kiguchi MM, Dillavou ED
  • May 01, 2018

    By Selena E. Briggs, MD

    Every year in the U.S., one in 5,000 people experience sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or sudden hearing loss. This is considered a medical emergency, but one of the most common causes is something that appears seemingly harmless: upper respiratory tract infections. In fact, one in four patients with sudden hearing loss had an upper respiratory infection within a month before the hearing loss. Of the identifiable causes of sudden hearing loss, the vast majority are due to viruses, such as upper respiratory tract infections.

    Unfortunately, there’s no preventative therapy that has been identified to reduce the risk. The window of treatment is typically 21 days for therapy to be most effective. Outside of that time frame, the likelihood of permanent hearing loss is significantly greater. According to most studies, 32 to 65 percent of individuals with sudden hearing loss with experience some degree of recovery. Normal hearing will return for just 33 percent of these people. For another third, hearing will improve somewhat. For the final third, the hearing loss will be permanent. The difference in hearing restoration is in how quickly a patient receives specialized care.

    LISTEN: Dr. Briggs discusses sudden hearing loss in the Medical Intel podcast.

    What is sudden sensorineural hearing loss?

    While an acute sinus infection or ear infection can cause pressure, a muffled sensation or fluid in both ears, sudden sensorineural hearing loss usually occurs in just one ear. It can happen immediately—people often wake up with it—or it can develop over several days.

    Sudden hearing loss isn’t a pressure problem, either. It actually causes injury to the nerve in your ear. Oftentimes, individuals who have sudden sensorineural hearing loss experience other symptoms, such as ringing in the ears, vertigo, dizziness, or a high pitched or white noise sound in the ear. These symptoms can be further indicators of damage to the nerve in your ear.

    What should you do if you experience sudden hearing loss?

    The first thing to do is to see your primary care doctor or go to a nearby urgent care center for an ear exam. It seems odd, but an ear exam that comes back normal in this situation is an emergency. The doctor will examine your ear to make sure your eardrum looks normal, that wax isn’t plugging up the ear canal, and that you have no fluid behind the eardrum. If you have sudden hearing loss and a normal ear exam, you need to have a hearing test from a specialist right away.

    How can a specialist help?

    Once a patient is diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss, they should be seen by an otolaryngologist/neurotologist within 24 to 48 hours. The specialized treatment is started rather urgently because it offers the best chance for the best outcome.

    We’ll start with a physical examination and take a medical history. We often order an MRI of the brain and inner ear to evaluate any changes or compression of the nerve responsible for hearing and balance. Based on your personal and family medical history, we also may order laboratory tests to assess for diabetes, other autoimmune disorders or infections.

    Treatment will depend on your existing conditions. For example, if you have diabetes or hypertension, we will tailor therapies to accommodate those conditions. Your doctor may recommend oral steroids or injection steroids in the middle ear space, or a combination of the two. Steroid treatments decrease inflammation on the nerve to increase blood flow, which improves hearing. Another recommended therapy is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In this treatment, you’re put into a chamber that simulates scuba diving. In the chamber, we’ll boost the oxygen level in your system in the hope that it’ll help it to heal your nerve faster.

    Not all sudden changes in your hearing are virus related. A loud sound or a blast can cause a sudden hearing loss, and it’s treated in a similar way. Sudden hearing loss also can be an early sign of a stroke, tumor on the skull base, thyroid disorder, autoimmune disorder, or diabetes. Many diseases can cause sudden hearing loss, which is why it’s so important for you to see a doctor right away.

    For example, I treated a patient who also was a doctor for bilateral hearing loss, meaning it was occurring in both ears. This individual needed his hearing to perform his work. Fortunately, he came to see me almost immediately after he noticed the hearing loss, which was profound. At his first visit, we had to communicate by typing on a computer because he couldn’t hear at all. We started oral steroids, inner ear steroids, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Remarkably, his hearing was fully restored.

    Sudden hearing loss can be a frightening and emotional experience. Many of us take our hearing for granted, and once we lose it, we realize how important it is. Seeking treatment right away can lead to more positive outcomes.

    Call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with an otolaryngology specialist.

    Request an Appointment

  • April 30, 2018

    By Laura S. Johnson, MD

    Since electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigarettes, first hit the market in 2007, they’ve become a popular option for people who want to stop smoking and people who have never smoked traditional cigarettes. Research is still underway as to whether using these devices (vaping) is healthier or safer than smoking in terms of the risk for lung cancer and other diseases. But e-cigarettes do carry one potential risk that cigarettes don’t: the risk of exploding.

    Media reports and medical journals have documented cases of e-cigarette explosions and fires across the country, and I’ve treated several patients here at MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Burn Center. These burns can be painful and may even require surgery to treat. It’s important to know the dangers of e-cigarette injuries and explosions so you can reduce your risk.

    Potential injuries from e-cigarette explosions

    In our Burn Center, e-cigarette burn patients have nearly always been carrying the devices in their pants pockets when they exploded. Patients have come in with second- or third-degree burns on their thighs. Some of these burns are serious enough that we’ve had to perform surgery. Go to the emergency room right away if you’ve been burned by an exploding e-cigarette.

    Elsewhere in the country, hospitals and burn centers have reported patients coming in with first-, second- or third-degree burns from vaping devices. A word of caution: These links include photos or videos of people who have been injured by exploding e-cigarettes:

    What causes e-cigarettes to explode?

    E-cigarettes are electronic devices that, just like smartphones and laptops, are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which are popular with manufacturers because of their light weight, ability to store energy and ability to recharge. These devices have a potential risk of exploding because of a combination of how their batteries are made and how the devices are used.

    All lithium-ion batteries include liquids called electrolytes, which help energy flow within a battery to the device it’s powering. The electrolytes in all lithium-ion batteries currently on the market as of October 2017 are either flammable (able to catch fire) or combustible (able to explode). These batteries also have a wrapping that, if damaged, can allow sparks to form near these flammable liquids if the wrapping comes into contact with metal. When these batteries catch fire, it can cause a reaction called thermal runaway, which leads to extremely high temperatures in a short time.

    Damage to an #ecig’s battery can make it more likely to explode and cause serious #burns. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    And although similar batteries in other devices have caught fire or exploded—most notably hoverboards and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphones—certain types of e-cigarettes may be more likely to fail because of their designs. Some e-cigarettes are shaped like traditional cigarettes or pens. As the U.S. Fire Administration noted in a 2014 report, the ends of these tube-shaped devices are structurally weak, and the placement of a battery near these weak points can cause the battery, the e-cigarette or both to explode with enough force to “be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket.”

    How to lower your risk of burns from e-cigarettes

    The easiest way to reduce your risk is to not use them in the first place. If you’re going to use an e-cigarette, however, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and use them only as directed.

    Only use #ecigs as directed by the manufacturer to reduce the risk of explosion and #burns. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    Most e-cigarettes are powered by a battery pack that has a USB connection, which allows users to plug them into computers to charge or wall outlets with an approved adapter. However, in many cases of e-cigarette explosions, users have charged their devices with chargers not provided by the manufacturer, which can damage the battery and cause it to overload.

    Users also may try to modify or repair their e-cigarettes themselves, rather than buying a different device or having it repaired by a professional. This also can increase the risk of the device or the battery being damaged. E-cigarette repairs aren’t safe do-it-yourself projects. If your device is damaged, dispose of it safely and buy another one.

    I also recommend that people not carry e-cigarettes in their pants pockets. Doing so can increase your risk for a serious burn if the battery explodes. And definitely don’t carry an e-cigarette with metallic objects, such as loose change or keys.

    E-cigarettes have not been approved as a safe way to quit a nicotine habit. And I don’t want to see people get hurt by something they think is a safer alternative to smoking. If you choose to vape, understand the risks, including severe burns, and work to reduce them.

    Want to quit vaping or smoking? Call 202-877-3627 to request an appointment today.

    Request an Appointment

  • April 26, 2018

    By Jonathan Patrick, MD

    Patients used to rely entirely on their primary care doctors’ referrals when they needed to see cardiologists and other heart and vascular care specialists. These days, thanks to the internet, patients have access to more data than ever before when they’re making critical healthcare decisions. In fact, there’s so much data that it’s easy to have information overload. What data are available about hospitals’ cardiology quality and safety? How do providers use these data to improve their care? And how can you use this information to make the best decisions possible about your cardiology care?

    What cardiology quality and safety data are available?

    "What’s past is prologue,” as William Shakespeare wrote. What the Bard meant is that the best way to guess the future is to look at what’s happened in the past. That’s why outcomes data, or data about the end results of patients with particular conditions or who have had particular treatments, are so important in evaluating healthcare providers. Consumers can get an idea of how their care should look from that provider based on how the provider has cared for patients previously.

    Clinical data are the most reliable form of cardiology outcomes information patients should look for. These data are collected during medical treatment, either during regular doctor/patient visits or as part of a clinical trial. After identifying information about specific patients is removed, the data are shared with national registries, which are archives dedicated to information for a specific medical discipline or, in some cases, specific conditions.

    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, which operates throughout the MedStar Health system, reports our clinical data to a number of national organizations, such as the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the American College of Cardiology. Nurses verify our information before it’s submitted to make sure it’s accurate. You can find key clinical information about hospitals you’re considering with the American College of Cardiology’s Find Your Heart a Home search tool and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ public reporting scores. In fact, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute’s cardiac surgery program earned the highest quality rating of three stars from the STS.

    Clinical #data are the most reliable form of #cardiology outcomes information patients should look for. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    The second tier of data you may find during your search is administrative data . This information is compiled from billings of patients’ insurance plans, as well as the federal government through patients’ Medicare and Medicaid plans. By tracking the number of cases billed, it’s possible to track the number of cases of particular conditions a hospital treats. This information isn’t vetted by medical professionals, so it’s not quite as reliable as clinical data, although the reliability of this information is improving over time.

    Our cardiology data and how we constantly improve

    Internally, we track and measure many aspects of our patients’ care. We do this to see which management and care procedures are working, which ones aren’t and where we need to make adjustments. We’re constantly improving our overall care by looking at this information. For example, rather than sending our doctors and nurses all over the hospital to care for many patients, as we used to do and as many other hospitals still do, we’ve reorganized into specific teams that work in specific places. This helps us track the effectiveness and outcomes of each team over months and years. Our data tracking and the procedures we’ve standardized as a result have led to patients getting care even faster for cardiac arrest, as well as shorter, more efficient inpatient stays to get patients home faster.

    One important goal of inpatient heart care is to send patients home from the hospital as healthy as possible. We monitor the mortality rate of patients who are admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center to receive bypass surgery or who come in with decompensated heart failure, which is a sudden worsening of heart failure symptoms. Our mortality rates in these cases are significantly better than the average among U.S. hospitals, and we continually work to improve them.  Your heart doctor or care team can share these and other measurements, known as metrics, with you to help you make more informed decisions about your care.

    We use these clinical data to improve the quality of the care we provide for patients staying with us who need electrophysiology and cardiac catheterization services. We’ve created a team, including a cardiac surgeon, an interventional cardiologist, an electrophysiologist, and other experts, that can be at a patient’s bedside within five minutes to diagnose and treat emergencies. That’s improved outcomes for our patients. We’re the only area hospital that has received the American College of Cardiology’s maximum performance ratings for electrophysiology and cardiac catheterization.

    Using healthcare data to choose heart and vascular care

    Despite the amount of data available on heart and vascular care at major hospitals like ours—and more becoming available all the time—data alone aren’t yet enough to replace that first step of asking a provider you trust. It’s nearly always a good idea to start with your primary care doctor, who should know the details of your condition and your unique needs. They should be able to point you toward specialists with particular expertise.

    Your friends and loved ones also can help in this area by sharing information on the patient experience. Does the doctor you’re considering thoroughly explain the options to patients and family members so they can make informed decisions? Are the nurses caring and attentive? Would you trust this team with your life if you needed more care? The answers to these questions and more can help you narrow your options.

    When you hear good things about several doctors or hospitals from people you trust, seeing great outcomes information or that a hospital treats many patients with your condition each year may help tip the scales in favor of one option. It’s not likely that every aspect of your particular condition or situation will be reflected in the data, but the information is another important piece of the puzzle you’re putting together.

    Choosing whom to trust with potentially lifesaving heart or vascular care is a huge decision. Along with trusted advice from professionals and loved ones, today’s wealth of information gives you more tools than ever to help you make informed decisions about your health.

    Call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with a cardiologist.

    Request an Appointment

  • April 24, 2018

    By Jack Sava, MD

    What if I were to say to you, “Quick! Tell me some important diseases.”? What would you come up with? Cancer? Heart disease? Diabetes? These are all good answers, but what if I told you that you were missing one of the most important diseases in America—traumatic injury?

    Chances are, you didn’t mention it, because you don’t think of it as a disease. Many people think of injury as something that just happens, an event. Because we think of traumatic injury as somehow separate from other health issues, it tends to get left behind when we prioritize health problems in America. This happens when families consider their biggest health risks, and it also happens when lawmakers decide which diseases need funding.

    Medical experts used to think this way, too. But around the 1970s, doctors realized that trauma actually followed all the rules of other diseases. For example, there are predictable risk factors. Just like smoking is a clear risk factor for lung cancer, alcohol abuse is a risk factor for injury. And after injury occurs and is treated in the hospital, there is a risk that it will recur, just like a cancer that has been removed. And, like diabetes, injury doesn’t just kill. It also changes the life of those who survive, affecting school, work, relationships, and happiness.

    Disability among brain injury survivors alone costs society $77 billion per year, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The overall cost of nonfatal injury in America is closer to $456 billion. Most importantly, like other diseases, injury often can be prevented with a combination of smart life choices and good public health.

    LISTEN: Dr. Sava discusses trauma as a disease in this Medical Intel podcast.

    How important is trauma?

    To start with, it’s the biggest killer of people under 45 years of age in America. More young Americans die from injury than cancer, heart disease, congenital defects, or infection. Think of people in your life that tragically passed away at a painfully early age—many of them were likely victims of injury.

    The fact that trauma often happens to young people has important consequences in public health. It means that more years of life usually are lost when someone dies from injury than from, say, heart disease. In fact, if you add up all the years of life lost in America due to traumatic injury, it’s more than any other disease, including heart disease and cancer.

    Around the world, the problem is even worse. More than 5 million (yes, that’s right, million) people die each year from injuries. That’s one every 6 seconds, and it’s more than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined.

    I think part of the problem is that the word “trauma” is a bit confusing. Many of us think trauma has to do with emotionally difficult events or bad things that happens to us. Technically, trauma (or traumatic injury) refers to any instance where an external force causes damage to the tissues of the body. I think “injury” often does a better job as a label, but I think we are stuck to the words we have for now.

    What can we do better?

    There’s no reason we need to accept these numbers. As long as there are wars and cars and stairs and tall buildings, people will likely die from injury. But we can do far better.

    Compared to other diseases with far less impact, trauma is underfunded at local, state and national levels. We need more research on preventing injury, surviving it when it happens and rehabilitating the victims. There is room for more education, too. Every American should understand the basics of bleeding control, just like they should know CPR. The American College of Surgeons’ Stop The Bleed program is a great example of this type of education.

    We at MedStar Washington Hospital Center are always working not only to fix broken bodies, but also to raise public and legislative awareness of this problem. So, next time you are thinking of what diseases to discuss with your kids, what to write about to your representative or where to focus your family’s charitable contributions, remember what just may be the most important one of all—trauma.

    Click below to learn more about our MedSTAR Trauma team.

    MedSTAR Trauma