Included below are news items from the last six months.
Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by fragments from a clot in a deep leg vein being carried to the lung and blocking part of its blood supply. In patients clinically assessed to have a low probability of pulmonary embolism there is a consensus that the diagnosis can be ruled out if the result of a D-dimer blood test is lower than a fixed ‘cut-off’ value.
D-dimer values increase with age. In 2010 a retrospective study by a European group showed that adjusting the cut-off value for age would increase the proportion of elderly patients with a low clinical probability who had a negative test. The practical application of this strategy was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association on 19 March 2014. In 673 patients aged over 75 with a low clinical probability, the fixed cut-off ruled out pulmonary embolism in 43 (6.4%) while an age-adjusted cut-off ruled it out in 200 (29.7%) with no false negative results.
The highly successful Lab Tests Online-UK app launched in June 2013 has now been revised and updated to improve functionality and performance. Upgrades to navigation menus and a new instant search function allow users to pinpoint the information they require in seconds. Users can now share any article quickly and easily by email or via social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently reported on hoax emails that have been sent to thousands of patients, informing them that blood results show that they have cancer. NICE is advising people who have received the email - the subject line of which is “important blood analysis result” - to delete it without opening it and not to click on any links contained within the message.
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10 laboratory medicine scientists have recently been named in the Science Council’s list of the UK’s top 100 scientists. This demonstrates the strength and influence that laboratory medicine has within the UK. These scientists have been recognised for their expertise, skills and leadership and are an example of the outstanding contribution laboratory medicine scientists make to the NHS.
Screening to prevent and detect cervical cancer is based on cells being brushed from the cervix into liquid preservative and examined in the laboratory under a microscope (cytology). An alternative testing strategy, screening the cells first for human papilloma virus (HPV), has been shown to lead to the detection of a larger number of treatable pre-cancerous lesions. A follow-up study of 176,464 women who had taken part in four European randomised trials that tested these screening alternatives was published online in The Lancet on 3 November 2013. HPV-based screening was found to provide 60-70% greater protection against the development of invasive cancer of the cervix than cytology-based screening.