Thursday, November 26, 2015
Doctor's Perspective
New health study will give us more insight to diseases

By Dr. Anthony Policastro Many medical terms tend to be unfamiliar. One of the terms that we will be hearing more about in the future is Precision Medicine which refers to an approach to illness that follows individuals over many years. The Precision Medicine Initiative is somewhat related to a program called the Framingham Heart Study which was started in 1948. The study followed over 5,000 individuals from the Framingham, Massachusetts area. The goal of the study was to identify risk factors for heart disease in these individuals. As a matter of fact, this is the study that coined the term "risk factor." In the early days of the study little was known about heart disease and risk factors. The thought was that people developed certain things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease as they aged. However, the study showed that was not exactly true. Over 1,000 scientific papers came out of this study. The study taught us a lot about what we know about heart disease today. Researchers later enrolled two additional generations of individuals and the study continues today. The study showed us a lot about the role of genetics and the role of the environment and how the two are related. Precision Medicine takes this concept one step further. The goal is to have approximately one million Americans volunteer to take part in a study. The expectation is that all age groups and a cross section of ethnic groups will be represented. The plan is to follow these individuals over a long period of time. The study will look at various environmental and genetic influences. Now that we have mapped the human genome, genetic influences can be more carefully tracked. There will be an opportunity to look at much more than just heart disease. Certain factors make this the right time to do such a project. One factor is Americans are more actively involved in ways to improve their health than ever before. Many individuals realize that research into disease is one way of helping us control it. Electronic health records have been widely adopted which makes the tracking of information easier than it was in the past. In addition, health technologies have become more mobile. That allows us to take the technology to the individual rather than having the individual travel long distances. We have mapped the human genome. As a result, the costs for someone to have their genome analyzed have dropped significantly in recent years. Our ability to analyze diverse pieces of data has become more sophisticated. It will help allow us to bring together unrelated pieces of medical data that may have been missed in the past. The initial steps of recruitment are expected to take place in 2016. If you are interested in being a participant in the study you can go to the NIH website. The Framingham study is now almost 70-years-old. We have learned a lot in those 70 years. The next 70 years could be even more exciting as we take aim at things like cancer to find out how genetics and environment play a role in its development.

Report about alcohol, pregnancy How much alcohol is safe to drink when you're expecting? Not a drop. That's according to a report just published in the November issue of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Pediatrics magazine. The report identifies prenatal alcohol exposure as the leading cause of preventable birth defects and neurodevelopmental disabilities. Drinking during pregnancy greatly increases the chances that the baby will develop a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Prenatal alcohol exposure is a frequent cause of structural or functional effects on the brain, heart, bones and spine, kidneys, vision and hearing. It's also associated with a higher incidence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and specific learning disabilities such as difficulties with mathematics and language, information processing, memory, and problem solving. "We wholeheartedly support the AAP's announcement regarding no alcohol use during pregnancy," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Director of the Division of Public Health (DPH). Some physicians have advised pregnant women that it may be acceptable to consume limited quantities of alcohol during their third trimester. However, the AAP report disputes that logic. First-trimester drinking, compared to no drinking, results in 12 times the odds of giving birth to a child with FASDs. First- and second-trimester drinking increased FASDs odds 61 times, and women who drink during all trimesters were 65 more likely to have children who would develop an FASD. The Department of Health and Social Services has begun a pregnancy and addiction project led by the Secretary's office, DPH, DSAMH and the newly re-formed FASD Task Force. DHSS and the Task Force are reviewing available education, diagnosis, and treatment services for reproductive age women with the goal of increasing women and medical provider awareness of the dangers of alcohol and drugs during a pregnancy, and developing additional information on identifying FASD symptoms early in infants and young children. For more information about the project or the FASD Task Force, call 302-744-4704. If you're a mother struggling with addiction, visit for local resources.

Bariatric Support Group Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery will host a bariatric support group from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1 and Thursday, Dec. 17, at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in the Medical Staff Conference Room. This free group is designed to provide education and support to patients before and after their bariatric weight loss surgery. Meetings will consist of guest speakers and presentations to provide useful information about nutrition, supplements, exercise and behavior modifications. Patients and their spouses, family members and friends are welcome to attend. Registration is not required. For more information, contact Shelly Geis at 629-6611, ext. 8810.

Learn about beauty products Give the gift of self-love and self-care this holiday season with non-toxic beauty products Come to the Cancer Support Community (CSC) in Rehoboth at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 7, to learn about inexpensive yet luxurious DIY health, home and beauty products with Casey Goold of Mind Body Spoon. Call 645-9150 in advance to reserve your spot. All programs offered at Cancer Support Community are free of charge to people affected by cancer and their loved ones. The Sussex facility is located at 18947 John J. Williams Hwy., Ste. 312, Rehoboth. For more information, visit

Surgeon offers new technology Dr. Pasquale Petrera of Peninsula Orthopedic Associates has been using groundbreaking technology for knee replacement surgery in Salisbury, Md. and is now offering the same procedure at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. This new technology offers guided personalized total knee surgeries for patients. ExactechGPSᄄ Guided Personalized Surgery is the latest advancement in technology that provides surgeons with real-time visual guidance and alignment data in total knee surgery. Similar to a navigation device in your car, this advanced platform provides a visual map of the patient's joint on a screen, allowing surgeons to easily make adjustments, use minimally invasive techniques and perform implant alignment relative to the patient's needs. Dr. Petrera notes, "Most total knee surgeons are using 40-year-old technology to implant knees in 2015. The ExactechGPS system is the most innovative up-to-date technology in total knee replacement.Many orthopedic studies have shown a lower revision rate with the use of navigation in total knee replacement." For more information about ExactechGPS or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Petrera, call 877-749-4154 or visit Dr. Petrera has office hours in both Salisbury and Berlin, Md. as well as in Millsboro and Seaford.

First influenza case reported The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) reports the state's first Sussex County laboratory-confirmed case of influenza for the 2015-2016 flu season. The case involves a 61-year-old Sussex County woman who is recovering at home after a visit to the emergency room. There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus - types A and B - that routinely spread in people and are responsible for seasonal flu outbreaks each year. Sussex County's first case is strain B. "Flu is now confirmed statewide," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "And, past experience shows that the number of lab- confirmed cases is smaller than the actual number of cases out there. Flu is here to stay this season and it's a good time to get vaccinated, stay home when sick, and wash your hands frequently." DPH urges all Delawareans six months of age and older who have not yet been vaccinated against the flu to get a vaccination as soon as possible. For a complete listing of DPH flu clinics, visit During the 2014-2015 flu season, there were 28 flu-related deaths and 2,390 confirmed cases of influenza in Delaware, a significant increase in activity from the prior flu season. Delaware has a total of five lab-confirmed cases for 2015-2016 to date; two in New Castle County, two in Kent County and one in Sussex County. For more information on influenza prevention, diagnosis and treatment, call the Division of Public Health at 888-282-8672 or visit

Hospice Lunch Bunch Lecture "Resiliency: The Art of Bouncing Back" will be the topic of Delaware Hospice's Lunch Bunch Lecture with Dr. Judy Pierson on Friday, Dec. 11. Resiliency is the ability to overcome challenges of all kinds - the loss of a loved one, a traumatic experience, a breakup, etc. It is not the denial of adversity but a way of moving through it that allows you to regain your footing in life. While most people adapt over time, some seem to be able to master challenges more effectively. Learn the resiliency strategies used by those who fair better and build your own personal skills for enduring hardship. Lunch, which is $5 per person, is from noon to 12:30 p.m. The free presentation is from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Registration is required as seating is limited. Register by Thursday, Dec. 10, by contacting Michele August at 302-746-4503 or