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NIHR Signal One week of steroids may be as effective as two weeks in managing severe COPD
A shorter course of steroids lasting 3 to 7 days appears as effective as the recommended 7 to 14-day standard treatment for managing a flare-up of severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This update to an earlier Cochrane review looked at randomised clinical trials comparing a short course (7 days or fewer) with a longer course (7 to 14 days) of steroids given by mouth or injection. All participants had been admitted to hospital, but none required mechanical ventilation. The evidence sug...
NIHR Signal Balance of long-term benefits and risks of caesarean delivery explained
Caesarean delivery has immediate known benefits and risks for those women who need help in childbirth. This review measures the long-term outcomes for the mothers’ health, the links to a higher risk of childhood illness and the chance of problems with future pregnancies. The large review of 80 studies from high-income countries used data from nearly 30 million women and compared caesarean section with vaginal delivery. Caesarean delivery was associated with a lower risk of urinary inconti...
NIHR Signal Vaccination likely to reduce influenza in healthy children
In healthy children aged two to 16, vaccines are likely to reduce laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza and may reduce the risk of influenza-like illness compared to placebo. Seven children need to receive the live vaccine to prevent one case of confirmed influenza. Twenty children need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of influenza-like illness. This updated Cochrane review included 41 trials of either live attenuated (weakened) or inactivated influenza vaccines, with over 200,000 partici...
NIHR Signal Physiotherapy education before major abdominal surgery reduces lung complications
A physiotherapy session before planned abdominal surgery, explaining the importance of breathing exercises and sitting out of bed as soon after surgery as possible, halves the risk of pneumonia. This trial compared the physiotherapy session with usual care which was provided to all 432 participants. This consisted of a leaflet given in the pre-operative outpatient clinic outlining the exercises, and physiotherapy input in the days after surgery. Just seven people would need to receive the addit...
NIHR Signal Self-care support for children with long-term conditions may reduce emergency costs
Helping children and parents to manage long-term conditions like asthma may reduce their need for emergency care, and is unlikely to reduce children’s quality of life. This NIHR review found that structured professional help with self-care, including online support, provision of care plans, case management and face-to-face education, was linked to small increases in quality of life scores and fewer emergency department visits. However, there was no clear evidence that supported self-care ...
NIHR Signal A third of health practitioners do not get vaccinated against flu
Flu vaccination uptake amongst healthcare workers in England is below the NHS target of 75%. Reasons may include mixed views on the vaccine’s effectiveness, side effects and belief they are unlikely to catch or transmit flu. Surprisingly, practical barriers such as time and access to vaccination were not mentioned in this systematic review of qualitative studies for the Department of Health. Though it included mainly North American studies, the findings are consistent with issues raised i...
NIHR Signal Pulmonary rehabilitation improves exercise tolerance in pulmonary fibrosis
People with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis who received pulmonary rehabilitation could walk 44 metres further in six minutes than those who did no exercise. Quality of life also improved. Pulmonary fibrosis is a rare condition where scar tissue builds up in the lungs making them stiff and causing breathing difficulty. The term idiopathic means there is no known cause. It tends to get worse over time, reducing a person’s activity levels. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a core part of care, but...
NIHR Signal Statins are of no benefit in acute respiratory distress syndrome
Giving statins to patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome made no difference to the number of days they spent on a ventilator. It also had no effect on mortality or the length of time spent in intensive care or in hospital compared with placebo. In acute respiratory distress syndrome, the lungs become severely inflamed, fill with fluid (pulmonary oedema) and can no longer function. The person needs mechanical ventilation and is at high risk of multiple organ failure and mortality. Thi...
NIHR Signal Social exclusion heightens risk of death across many health conditions
Socially excluded men have a mortality rate that is nearly eight times higher than the average for other men, and it is almost 12 times higher for excluded women. These health inequities in outcomes exist across a wide range of health conditions, particularly in infectious diseases and mental health. These findings suggest the need for a joined-up approach across sectors to support inclusive services and policies. Populations who experience social exclusion included in the NIHR-supported study ...
NIHR Signal National tobacco control policies linked to improvements in children’s health
National smoke-free legislation in advanced economies is linked to reduced rates of preterm birth, asthma hospitalisations and serious throat and chest infections in children. Comprehensive smoke-free policies appear to be more effective than policies with only partial or selective introduction. Smoking increases health risks for the smoker and others through second-hand exposure. Although the number of people smoking in the UK is falling, eight million UK adults still smoke, and an estimated f...
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