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November 30, 2011

The "Morning Person" Gene

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German scientists have potentially discovered a genetic reason why some people are morning people whereas others are night-owls.

The gene called ABCC9 dubbed "morning person" gene was identified by analyzing 4251 individuals who reported their sleeping pattern.

The ABCC9 variant type and number of copies significantly affected the number of hours of sleep. To confirm this finding, scientists modified the ABCC9 gene in the fruit fly and obtained similar results.

The gene codes for a protein that senses the energy metabolism of a cell, but how this relates to sleep is unclear. The gene is also associated with other conditions including heart disease and diabetes which probably helps explain why quality of sleep seems to be associated with these disease processes.

In the past, it was thought that poor sleep "caused" cardiovascular problems, but just maybe, sleep problems and heart problems are caused by a common genetic trigger rather than one causing the other.

Reference:
A K(ATP) channel gene effect on sleep duration: from genome-wide association studies to function in Drosophila. Mol Psychiatry. 2011 Nov 22. doi: 10.1038/mp.2011.142. [Epub ahead of print]

November 29, 2011

"Mouthwatering" Foods May Be a Misnomer?

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In the spirit of Thanskgiving where thoughts of food predominate, British researchers have determined that humans are NOT able to produce more saliva by merely thinking of foods whether hungry or not.

This includes looking at pictures of sumptuous foods.

What researchers did determine is that SMELLING foods increased salivary production significantly. Tasting and chewing was even more influential in salivary production.

So at least for humans, unless the food is smelled, tasted, or chewed, mouthwatering just does not happen.

Of note, salivary production was determined by placing cotton pledgets inside the cheeks (saliva produced by the parotid glands) and a suction device under the tongue (saliva produced by the submandibular glands) on healthy volunteers.

Read MSNBC report here.

Reference:
IS THE MOUTHWATERING SENSATION A TRUE SALIVARY REFLEX? Journal of Texture Studies Special Issue: Food Oral Processing - Physics, Physiology, and Psychology University of Leeds, U.K. Volume 42, Issue 3, pages 212–216, June 2011

Cuddly Robot That Cures Snoring!

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The robot which is shaped like a polar bear essentially listens for snoring while monitoring oxygen levels of the snorer. The individual sleeps on this robotic bear. When oxygen levels drop coupled with snoring heard through its microphone, the robot lifts its paw and tickles the forehead which induces the snoring individual to shift position resulting in snore cessation all without actually waking the individual. Watch video below.

Of course, there's no studies I'm aware of that actually determines whether this works or not, but the concept is sound.

The robot was developed in Japan in Tokyo's Waseda University and was unveiled during the International Robot Show, but not yet commercially available.

The name of the robotic bear is "Jukusui-Kun".

Read more about this here.


November 26, 2011

Website Commenting System Changed to DISQUS

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We have used Google Friend Connect as the main way for people to comment on individual webpages on our practice website since 2009. Unfortunately, Google recently announced that they are planning to shut down Google Friend Connect on March 1, 2012.

As such, we have taken the proactive step in replacing the Google commenting system throughout our website and replaced it with DISQUS which offers even more power and flexibility.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused to our regular visitors.


November 23, 2011

With A Deviated Septum, Why Does Nasal Obstruction Come and Go?

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A deviated septum is a well known factor causing nasal obstruction in people. However, many patients with a deviated septum will also state that there are times when they can breath just fine from their nose. As such, can a deviated septum truly be the cause of their nasal obstructive symptoms? Shouldn't the obstruction be constant?

The blunt answer is ABSOLUTELY nasal obstruction can be intermittent OR constant with a deviated septum!!! It's more a question of degree.

To begin with, a deviated septum is when the wall that separates the right and left nasal cavities is bent one way (green arrow) instead of being perfectly straight.

If there is no mucosal swelling, a person with a deviated septum is able to breath from both sides just fine. However, if there is the slightest bit of mucosal swelling from turbinate hypertrophy, allergies, upper respiratory infection, or any other environmental irritation, the side that is more narrow will obstruct much more readily with less swelling given there is just "less room" for swelling to occur before obstruction occurs.

Below is the same exact nose and septum as above, but with mucosal swelling present.
As you can see, with the same exact amount of swelling present, the deviated septum significantly influences how much space is present for air to pass through compared with a straight septum.

As such, even though a deviated septum may not technically be obstructive, given there is less room for any swelling to be accomodated, a patient will complain of nasal congestion and obstruction much more readily compared to someone with a straight septum due to the slightest changes in mucosal swelling.

How is a deviated septum fixed? Click here to read more.

Of course, one can try and control the mucosal swelling to avoid any surgical intervention, typically with steroid or anti-histamine nasal sprays. The downside is that such medications need to be used daily to prevent swelling from occurring in the first place.



November 13, 2011

New Video on "Where" Snoring Comes From and Treatment

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Our office has produced a new video describing "where" snoring comes from determined by a simple procedure known as sedated or sleep endoscopy.

At its most basic definition, snoring is noise produced from a vibrating mucosal surface in the upper airway.

Though snoring can be defined simply, the tough question is WHERE are these vibrating mucosal surfaces? Because unless one can define WHERE the snoring is coming from, successful treatment can't be pursued definitively.

An office exam performed while a patient is awake is suboptimal as the patient is awake... and not snoring. As such, it is an educated guess where the snoring problem is stemming from.

To this end, there are three main levels where snoring can be produced and the best way to localize a snore is to perform the exam while the patient is asleep (induced by anesthesia) and snoring!

1) Nose
2) Mouth
3) Throat
4) All of the above

Watch the video to see how each of these areas can contribute to a person's snore as well as treatment options.


November 08, 2011

Can What Makes a Lion Roar Help Human With a Weak Voice?

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Researchers in Iowa have discovered what makes a lion or tiger roar so effectively. Apparently, there is a layer of fat within large feline vocal cords that makes the vocal cords especially prone to vibrate easily with minimal exhalation effort.

What import does this have to humans?

Well, there are patients who have a very weak voice due to vocal cord atrophy as well as vocal cord paralysis. Standard interventions include voice therapy as well as surgical procedures using an implant or injectable material in order to "bulk" up the vocal cord.

In fact... one such injectable material that has been used to inject into vocal cords is fat, typically taken from the belly of the patient!

Two points to keep in mind however...

Just like in lions and tigers, it DOES improve the vocal strength and volume to a patient who previously had a weak voice, may now have a much stronger voice after the procedure.

However, the second point is that by making the vocal cord "bulkier" you are making it thicker which can decrease the vocal pitch... just like a violin string where the thicker the string, the lower the pitch.

On another related note... human infants have fat within their vocal cords... that may be why something so small with tiny lungs can produce such a terrific loud cry!

Read a story in the NYT regarding this research here.

Reference:
Adapted to Roar: Functional Morphology of Tiger and Lion Vocal Folds. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27029. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027029

November 05, 2011

Want to See a Specialist Doctor Who Does Not Take Your Insurance? There Are Options...

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It is not unusual nowadays that a patient may want to see a specific medical specialist who unfortunately does NOT participate with their health insurance plan. This doctor is what is known in insurance parlance as a "non-par provider."

In this situation, there are two options.

1) The patient pays the medical bill (self-pay) and forwards the receipt to the insurance company who hopefully will reimburse the patient.

2) The patient can request a "Letter of Medical Necessity" from the primary care doctor to submit to the health insurance company requesting temporary non-participating provider (non-par) insurance coverage.

What does such a letter of medical necessity entail?

The best way to illustrate this course of action is to provide an example. In my practice, I offer several services that many other ENT specialists do not. As such, there are a large number of patients who travel from even as far away as Florida and Arizona to be seen in our Virginia office. Needless to say, many patients have health insurance plans that I do not participate with.

One such procedure is tonsil cryptolysis.

A sample "Letter of Medical Necessity" that a patient can request from their primary care doctor to submit to their insurance company is as follows (the same concept can apply to any type of procedure or specialist evaluation):

John Smith, MDCountry Lakes Family Practice
Dear [Insurance Company]:
I am writing this letter on behalf of my patient, Mary Smith (DOB: 01/01/1965), who has a 10 year history of cryptic tonsils with production of tonsiliths (tonsil stones) on a daily basis. 
Though this problem occurred intermittently during adolescence, it has recurred during adulthood and has become a chronic problem which has affected her overall quality of life.  These stones consist of debris collected in the crypts of the tonsils together with sulfur-producing bacteria which account for the acrid odor and taste.  
I believe Mary is a candidate for a minimally-invasive procedure called tonsil cryptolysis (coblation therapy).  This procedure uses a radio-frequency energy in combination with a conductive medium to form a low temperature (40-80° C) localized plasma field which allows the precise removal of affected tissue while maintaining the integrity of surrounding, healthy tissue.  This results in decreased pain and a significantly shorter recovery time as compared with more traditional methods of treatment.  This procedure can be done in the office under local anesthesia on eligible adult patients.
After an initial evaluation for candidacy, tonsil cryptolysis can be done in an office setting under local anesthesia.  Most patients (70%) require one session for complete amelioration of symptoms. 
As there are no area specialists offering tonsil cryptolysis, I recommend that Mary be evaluated and treated by a non-par provider, Dr. Christopher Chang of Fauquier ENT Consultants located in Warrenton, VA. Please provide temporary insurance coverage in order for Mary to be seen by Dr. Chang.
Sincerely,
xxxxxxx
Dr. John Smith

That's it!

If insurance declines coverage, than you are stuck with option #1 to self-pay if you really want to see a specific non-participating provider.

In any case, some unique services our office provides for which patients have requested non-par provider coverage include:

November 03, 2011

Singer Keith Urban to Undergo Vocal Cord Surgery

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The year 2011 so far seems to be the year for vocal cord surgery in singers... John Mayer, than Adele, and now Keith Urban.

On Nov 3, 2011, it was announced that country singer Keith Urban will be undergoing vocal cord surgery to remove a polyp from his vocal cords forcing him to cancel/postpone upcoming concerts. Read ABC News report here.

A vocal cord polyp would cause a mild rasp in the voice that is worse in the upper pitch range and soft voice. Onset delays and pitch breaks are common.

There are several theories as to why a vocal cord polyp may form on the vocal cord in the first place. My personal favorite theory is as follows. At some point, an acute traumatic event to the vocal cord occurred stemming from a yell, cough, excessive singing, or laryngitis. Depending on what happens next determines whether a polyp or cyst develops. With a cyst, the mucosal vocal cord lining breaks down and during the healing process a cyst develops due to entrapped cells meant for creating lining. A polyp, however, is in essence a blistering of the lining. Vocal cord nodule for comparison's sake is just callous thickening of the vocal cord lining.


Traditional standard of care management of a vocal cord polyp starts with voice therapy and avoidance of any activities leading to voice abuse (screaming, yelling, etc). The main reason is that with voice therapy alone, it is not uncommon that the polyp may resolve to point where the vocal quality becomes acceptable and stable. However, more often, only mild improvement occurs with persistence of hoarseness. At this point, surgical excision is recommended. Watch video.

With a polyp, it is simply grabbed and removed at its base. Typically no sutures are used to close the incision after excision, mainly because sutures tend to promote scar formation that can adversely affect the voice. After surgery, STRICT voice rest is mandatory to allow the body to heal the surgical wound site. After about 1-2 weeks, the patient is allowed to start talking in small increments under the guidance of a voice therapist until complete healing has occurred in about 4 weeks. However, the vocal cord lining is "brand new" and careful voice use is recommended for at least 6 months (absolutely no screaming, yelling, or excessive voice use) which risks mucosal tearing and recurrence. Eventually, the patient may use their voice without restriction. Both for 1 week before and up to 3 months after surgery, reflux medications are recommended for reflux prophylaxis. Why? Because if there's ANY acid that washes over the surgical site from a reflux event, healing will not occur properly (imagine putting some acid drops into the eye after eye surgery). As a reminder, though vocal cord polyps can be removed with surgical excision, they can recur if underlying abusive voice behavior that led to the initial formation is not addressed.

Read more about vocal cord polyps here.

The Doctors TV Show Does Chronic Throat Clearing

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The Doctors TV show recently did a segment on chronic throat clearing. The ENT expert who explained this very annoying condition was Dr. Reena Gupta, a well-respected laryngologist with the Osborne Head and Neck Institute.

During this TV show, Dr. Gupta provided the two most common reasons for chronic throat clearing which were post-nasal drainage and reflux.

At its most basic explanation, mucus can come from the nose down into the throat (post-nasal drainage) OR mucus can come up from the stomach into the throat (reflux). The end-result is a person desiring to throat clear the mucus up and out.

However, there are other causes which were not addressed by Dr. Gupta during the show.

Other reasons for chronic throat clearing include:

Medication Side Effect
Food Allergies or Sensitivities
Zenker's Diverticulum
Laryngeal Sensory Neuropathy
Anatomic Triggers
PANDAS
Non-Organic Tic

Read more about chronic throat-clearing here.

Watch the TV show segment here.


ENT Position Available With Our Practice

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Our practice is looking for a board-eligible or board-certified otolaryngology-head & neck surgeon sometime in 2014 time frame with guaranteed income that first year followed by partnership.

We are located in Northern Virginia about 45 minutes directly west of downtown Washington DC and is run by Dr. Chang in solo practice. The practice itself is located on hospital grounds situated in the lovely tree-lined rural city of Warrenton, VA where one can even see the Appalachian mountains from our office. Many city amenities are available within a short 15 minute drive but without the traffic and hassle of big-city congestion.

Interest in general otolaryngology is a must with sub-specialty interest even better. Some facts that may be of interest:

  • Full-service ENT office with audiology, hearing aids, allergy testing, and allergy shots
  • Near-monopoly services in terms of ENT and allergy in the region. 1 of only 2 otolaryngologists in the county… no otolaryngology services in counties to the West. 1 of only 4 allergists in the county 
  • Office fully on electronic medical records
  • Office on hospital campus (one office and no satellite offices to cover)
  • Hospital and Radiology fully on electronic medical records & PACS, all accessible via iPhone and iPad
  • BrainLAB image guidance available
  • Office will possibly be moving to a brand new medical office building (still on-campus) in near future with in-house ambulatory surgery center. Ownership opportunity available for both.
  • Aggressive social media participation
  • Semi-rural, small-town environment
  • Call would be 1:3 (with calls rarely occurring after hours)

If there's any interest, please call or email!

For more information about our practice, check out our practice website!


Please note...
We will not deal with recruiters.

November 01, 2011

Magic Ears Club Founded by Fauquier ENT Hosts Halloween Party

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The Magic Ears Club kicked off its existence with a first ever Halloween Party on October 29, 2011 where over 15 kids from elementary to high school ages who wear hearing aids co-mingled and played games while their parents talked amongst each other their experiences. Prizes and free hearing aid goodies were also distributed.

Dr. Catie Chalmers, audiologist with Fauquier ENT who founded the Magic Ears Club, stated that the purpose of the club is to help parents, as well as their hard-of-hearing children, connect, share, and provide support for each other.

Being a member of this unique club means being able to participate in practice-sponsored parties as well as meeting new friends who also have "magic ears" (aka, hearing aids).

Furthermore, members can participate over the internet in either open or closed forums hosted by Fauquier ENT where members can ask questions or provide other meaningful support to each other wherever and whenever they wish.

The open forum is through Facebook which is open to all who support our goals whereas the closed forum is hosted through Yahoo Groups and limited to ONLY those individuals who are patients of Fauquier ENT.

For more information, go to http://www.MagicEarsClub.com
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