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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 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 Plastic wraps or bags keep pre-term infants warm immediately after birth
Cheap and simple plastic wrapping used in the first 10 minutes after birth helps pre-term and low birth weight infants avoid hypothermia. Infants treated in this way are likely to be warmer when admitted to neonatal intensive care than those treated according to standard care. Pre-term infants are most likely to benefit. Routine infant care usually involves ensuring the delivery room is warm, drying the infant immediately after birth, wrapping the infant in pre-warmed dry blankets and pre-warmi...
NIHR Signal Probiotics can prevent bacterial diarrhoea in hospital patients receiving antibiotics
Giving probiotics to people taking antibiotics reduces the chance of them developing diarrhoea caused by Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) bacteria by 60%. One case of Clostridium-associated diarrhoea was prevented for every 42 people receiving probiotics. They appear to work best for patients at more than 5% risk of Clostridium infection. When antibiotics disturb healthy gut bacteria, Clostridium bacteria may multiply to toxic levels, causing diarrhoea and serious intestinal complications. ...
NIHR Signal Sending patient reminders improves immunisation uptake
Contacting patients by telephone or mail about recommended immunisations leads to eight more people in every 100 being immunised. Text messages, postcards or automatic dialling techniques and recorded voices are the reminder methods that have the highest certainty of being effective. In the UK over 90% of children currently receive the recommended immunisation programme, but this is still below optimal to prevent infection. The uptake of the influenza vaccination in over 65s is also below natio...
NIHR Signal Lorazepam confirmed as first-line treatment for stopping prolonged seizures in children
Intravenous lorazepam is as effective as intravenous diazepam for stopping children’s tonic-clonic seizures in hospital. Lorazepam also results in fewer breathing problems than diazepam. Giving antiepileptic drugs intravenously generally stops seizures more quickly than giving the drugs buccally (in the cheek), intranasally (in the nose) or rectally. However, this effect can be cancelled out if administering the drug into the veins takes too long. Two of the 18 included trials were carrie...
NIHR Signal Exercise improves intermittent claudication leg pain on walking
People with intermittent claudication who participate in structured exercise programmes can walk about 80 metres further without experiencing leg pain than those who do not do the programme. They can also walk about 120 metres further overall. Intermittent claudication is a cramp-like pain in the legs caused by narrowing of the arteries, which restricts blood flow to the muscles. There’s increasing evidence that maintaining physical activity can help. This updated systematic review combin...
NIHR Signal Common osteoporosis drugs may prevent breast cancer spreading to bone
Drugs commonly prescribed to prevent bone thinning probably help prevent the spread of early breast cancer to the bones in a few women, when taken in addition to standard cancer therapies. However, the overall benefits may be small, for example preventing spread to bone or death in about one extra woman in every 100 treated for about five years. This is a complex area because many of the treatments for breast cancer are known to worsen bone thinning, but there are other bone strengthening benefi...
NIHR Signal Calcium channel blockers are useful in managing Raynaud’s phenomenon
Calcium channel blockers, such as nifedipine, are confirmed as useful in reducing the frequency, duration, severity of attacks, pain and disability associated with Raynaud’s phenomenon. People had two to six fewer attacks per week on average with treatment, and 13 without. Raynaud’s is a disorder which reduces blood flow to the fingers and toes as a result of the blood vessels tightening and going into spasm in the cold. This updated review suggested that calcium channel blockers ma...
NIHR Signal Diabetes drug aids fertility in women with polycystic ovaries
The diabetes drug metformin may help women with polycystic ovarian syndrome who are having problems getting pregnant, but it is unclear whether it works better than an alternative fertility drug that stimulates the ovaries. This study updates a previous review of trials that compare metformin with placebo, no treatment or with the fertility drug clomifene. It summarised results of 48 studies, including 4,451 women. The study found that metformin may work better than placebo or no treatment and ...
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