Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 28, 1997

In Brief
Medical News

Heart drug steadies eye surgeons' hands

Caffeine, stress, sleep loss, anxiety and physical exertion all can induce unnoticeable hand tremors. Now, a drug commonly used to treat rapid heartbeats appears to significantly improve hand steadiness of surgeons during simulated eye operations.

Results of the study with 17 volunteer eye surgeons showed that propranolol, used to slow the heart rate, decreases tremors, pulse rate and blood pressure without noticeable side effects. The study appeared in the March issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

"Eye surgeons know that the very delicate work we do can be affected by tremors," said Dante J. Pieramici, chief resident at Wilmer Eye Institute and a retinal surgeon. "While hand steadiness is only one of a number of factors that may influence a surgeon's performance, we're obligated to study ways to improve our work. But we are not advocating in any way drug use by surgeons to reduce tremors."

The researchers measured hand tremor in each subject immediately before and one hour after randomly giving them one of three treatments: a placebo, 10 milligrams of propranolol or 200 milligrams of caffeine added to a juice drink--about as much as in two cups of coffee. The tests were repeated on three separate days until each surgeon had received all three treatments.

As part of a performance improvement initiative, the Hopkins team measured hand tremors using a device they created and named MADSAM--Microsurgery Advanced Design Laboratory Stability, Activation and Maneuverability tester. MADSAM tests a subject's ability to hold hands steady under conditions similar to eye surgery. MADSAM records the position of a small magnet on the end of a microsurgical instrument used to illuminate the inside of the eye during an operation. Sitting on an operating room stool, the surgeons held the illuminator in a model eye containing a sensor that recorded how far the magnet moved in any direction. The sensor and eye were in a life-size mannequin head positioned beneath an operating room microscope.

HBP, lower income tied to renal disease in black men

Although hypertension and low income already are linked to an increased risk of end-stage renal disease for both African American and white men, the two factors may help explain the fourfold higher incidence of ESRD found in blacks, compared to whites, according to a study led by Johns Hopkins researchers and published in the April 23 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. These results also may help physicians design more effective treatment strategies, said Michael J. Klag, Hopkins associate professor of medicine and principal investigator for the study.

"These results indicate that interventions designed to address the markedly higher incidence of end-stage renal disease in African American men need to focus on ethnic disparities in blood pressure and socioeconomic status," he said.

Klag noted that other factors not addressed in the study also may account for the persistent increased risk of ESRD in African American men compared with white men. These include greater exposure to occupational toxins, viral infections, adverse health behaviors and possible genetic predisposition to ESRD.

End-stage renal disease is the most advanced form of kidney failure. It occurs when both kidneys gradually cease to function. Diabetes mellitus and hypertension are the most common causes of chronic renal failure.

Other News

Recycling efforts expand with acceptance of batteries

Recycling efforts around Hopkins are mounting, says Homewood campus coordinator Patrick Moran, thanks to cooperation across the board and expanded available services.

The recycling office recently began accepting batteries for proper disposal. Most small batteries contain heavy metal contaminants such as lead, arsenic, copper and mercury; they should not be disposed with regular trash. So Moran collects the materials--via campus mail or delivered directly to him in 09 Merryman Hall--and makes regular trips to the city's hazardous waste site. He has plans to invite recycling coordinators from Towson State University to join him in the effort.

Small batteries from appliances (AA, C, D cells, etc.) and even smaller "button" batteries from watches and calculators will be accepted. Larger batteries from cars or appliances should be delivered to city or county waste sites, along with home hazardous materials including empty paint and pesticide containers and certain cleaning materials.

Old Hopkins phone directories should be placed in regular paper recycling bins for pick-up. If an office has 12 or more, Moran will arrange for a special pick-up, he said. Unless otherwise noted, paper recycling bins should be used for all paper including cardboard and colored paper. However, envelopes like those used by Federal Express are made of Tyvek paper, which is recycled plastic; Tyvek should not be mixed with paper.

"We're definitely recycling a lot more," Moran said. "We're getting it from a lot more buildings, and it's cleaner."

He would like to see increased accessibility to recycling bins in the dorms; some students who recycle must collect materials and bring them to pick-up areas located in the mailrooms. Offices planning moves or "cleanouts" of outdated brochures and other materials should call their recycling offices for bulk pick-up.

For information about recycling on the Homewood campus, call 410-516-5592. To inquire about the university's toner cartridge recycling program, call Eden Stotsky in the Office of Faculty, Staff and Retiree Programs at 410-516-6060. To reach the School of Medicine's recycling program, call 410-955-3324. For information on recycling procedures at the School of Hygiene and Public Health, call 410-955-3404.

Open House scheduled for prospective home buyers

Faculty and staff interested in taking advantage of a 10-year property tax credit on homes in Baltimore's Waverly neighborhood have several opportunities soon to get to know the neighborhood better.

A community-wide open house takes place from noon to 2 p.m. this Sunday in Waverly, located near the Homewood campus, east of Greenmount Avenue from 39th Street to Exeter Hall. The open house, involving a number of Waverly properties that are currently on the market, is scheduled in conjunction with the Waverly Historic House Tour that afternoon.

The Waverly Community Housing Program has also scheduled information sessions on the property tax credit on Monday, May 12, and Wednesday, May 21. Both sessions will be at 7 p.m. at the Waverly Public Library.

A home buying workshop is scheduled for Saturday, June 7.

Under a state pilot program, anyone who purchases a home in Waverly by June 30, 1999, is eligible for an 80 percent credit on city property taxes for the first five years and smaller credits for the next five years. Total savings on a typical $50,000 house would be close to $7,800.

For information on the credit or any of the scheduled events, call Bill Wilson at the Waverly Community Housing Program at 410-235-7065.

Red Cross Blood Drive at Homewood May 5, 6

Natural disasters, such as the recent flooding in North Dakota, serve as a reminder that the American Red Cross is always on call to offer assistance to families injured and displaced by forces they cannot control. And providing blood to those in need is a critical part of the Red Cross services.

On May 5 and 6, the Red Cross will again be on the Homewood campus prepared to accept blood donations from faculty, staff and students. Red Cross personnel will be in the Glass Pavilion from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, May 5, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6. To sign up for a donation time, call Peggy Jones, at 410-516-8039.

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