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Top news stories from AMA Morning Rounds®: Week of May 22, 2023


Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of May 22, 2023–May 26, 2023.

The Washington Post (5/25, Morris) reports that a “study has identified 12 key symptoms that best define the debilitating condition known as long COVID.” The results, published in JAMA, are based on data involving “9,764 participants in a study called the RECOVER initiative...a four-year, $1.15 billion study of long COVID funded by the National Institutes of Health.”

USA Today (5/25, Weintraub) reports that the symptoms include: “fatigue, especially after exercise; brain fog; dizziness; gastrointestinal symptoms; heart palpitations; issues with sexual desire or capacity; loss of smell or taste; thirst; chronic cough; chest pain; and abnormal movements.” Each of these self-reported symptoms is given a score and a person with a score of 12 or higher “is a person who very likely has long COVID.” Researchers explained, however, that “it doesn’t mean these symptoms are the most common, or the most severe, or the most burdensome or the most important to people.” Rather, “it just means that these are the ones that help us identify people who have long-term consequences.”

The Washington Post (5/24, Gilbert) reports, “Scientists and neurosurgeons have implanted electronic devices into the brain and spinal cord of a paralyzed man that communicate wirelessly, enhancing his ability to walk and enabling him to climb stairs, according to” research published online in the journal Nature. This “work fuses two experimental technologies being developed to treat paralysis.” First, “one device is inserted into the skull and rests above the brain’s surface, decoding patterns involved in walking and transmitting a signal to a second device implanted along the spinal cord.” Next, “electrodes...stimulate the spinal cord in a precise sequence to activate leg muscles needed to walk.”

According to the New York Times (5/24, Whang), the implants have “provided a ‘digital bridge’ between” the patient’s “brain and his spinal cord, bypassing injured sections.” This has allowed the patient “to stand, walk and ascend a steep ramp with only the assistance of a walker.” Now, “more than a year after the implant was inserted, he has retained these abilities and has actually showed signs of neurological recovery, walking with crutches even when the implant was switched off.”

The New York Times (5/23, Pearson, Richtel, Levenson) reports that on Tuesday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy “issued an extraordinary public warning...about the risks of social media to young people, urging a push to fully understand the possible ‘harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.’” Murthy, in a 19-page advisory, “noted that the effects of social media on adolescent mental health were not fully understood, and that social media can be beneficial to some users.” But, he wrote, “There are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

The Hill (5/23, Choi) reports, “Murthy specifically pointed to the possibility of a link between time spent on social media and depression and anxiety,” citing “one 2019 study that found adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 who spent more than three hours on social media daily had double the risk of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

NBC News (5/23, Edwards, Jackson) reports, “The advisory urges policymakers and the companies that make the social media platforms to share with parents the burden of managing children’s and adolescents’ social media use,” and it “outlines recommendations for both technology companies and lawmakers.”

The New York Times (5/22, Runwal) reports, “Researchers have for the first time recorded the brain’s firing patterns while a person is feeling chronic pain, paving the way for implanted devices to one day predict pain signals or even short-circuit them.” Using a “device surgically placed inside the brain,” researchers found that “pain was associated with electrical fluctuations in the orbitofrontal cortex.” The findings indicate “that such patterns of brain activity could serve as biomarkers to guide diagnosis and treatment for millions of people with shooting or burning chronic pain linked to a damaged nervous system.” The findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.

Reuters (5/19, Rigby) reported, “After a year of taking semaglutide, marketed as Wegovy, patients’ risk of suffering from conditions like a heart attack or a stroke over the next ten years dropped to 6.3% from 7.6% when measured by a commonly used calculator, researchers at the Mayo Clinic” concluded in the findings of a 93-patient study presented last week at the European Congress on Obesity. The “risk was calculated using the American College of Cardiology’s calculator, based on data including blood pressure and cholesterol levels.” Investigators “assessed the risk before the patients—mainly white women, with a mean BMI of 39.8, but no history of heart disease— started the drug as well as after one year of taking it.”

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