Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Medical statistics


Choir singing is known to promote wellbeing. One reason for this may be that singing demands a slower than normal respiration, which may in turn affect heart activity. Coupling of heart rate variability (HRV) to respiration is called Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). This coupling has a subjective as well as a biologically soothing effect, and it is beneficial for cardiovascular function. RSA is seen to be more marked during slow-paced breathing and at lower respiration rates (0.1 Hz and below). In this study, we investigate how singing, which is a form of guided breathing, affects HRV and RSA. The study comprises a group of healthy 18 year olds of mixed gender. The subjects are asked to; (1) hum a single tone and breathe whenever they need to; (2) sing a hymn with free, unguided breathing; and (3) sing a slow mantra and breathe solely between phrases. Heart rate (HR) is measured continuously during the study. The study design makes it possible to compare above three levels of song structure. In a separate case study, we examine five individuals performing singing tasks (1-3). We collect data with more advanced equipment, simultaneously recording HR, respiration, skin conductance and finger temperature. We show how song structure, respiration and HR are connected. Unison singing of regular song structures makes the hearts of the singers accelerate and decelerate simultaneously. Implications concerning the effect on wellbeing and health are discussed as well as the question how this inner entrainment may affect perception and behavior.

Concepts: Medical statistics, Effect, Vocal music, Vocal range, Affect, Heart, Scientific method, Singing


Preterm birth is the most common single cause of perinatal and infant mortality, affecting 15 million infants worldwide each year with global rates increasing. Understanding of risk factors remains poor, and preventive interventions have only limited benefit. Large differences exist in preterm birth rates across high income countries. We hypothesized that understanding the basis for these wide variations could lead to interventions that reduce preterm birth incidence in countries with high rates. We thus sought to assess the contributions of known risk factors for both spontaneous and provider-initiated preterm birth in selected high income countries, estimating also the potential impact of successful interventions due to advances in research, policy and public health, or clinical practice.

Concepts: Perinatal mortality, Medical statistics, Infant mortality, Infant, Human Development Index, Epidemiology, Preterm birth, Childbirth


To determine the proportion of avoidable deaths (due to acts of omission and commission) in acute hospital trusts in England and to determine the association with the trust’s hospital-wide standardised mortality ratio assessed using the two commonly used methods - the hospital standardised mortality ratio (HSMR) and the summary hospital level mortality indicator (SHMI).

Concepts: Actuarial science, Statistical terminology, Epidemiology, Inheritance, Medical statistics, Ratio, Standardized mortality ratio, Trust


OBJECTIVE: Low-carbohydrate diets and their combination with high-protein diets have been gaining widespread popularity to control weight. In addition to weight loss, they may have favorable short-term effects on the risk factors of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Our objective was to elucidate their long-term effects on mortality and CVD incidence. DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, EMBASE, ISI Web of Science, Cochrane Library, and for relevant articles published as of September 2012. Cohort studies of at least one year’s follow-up period were included. REVIEW METHODS: Identified articles were systematically reviewed and those with pertinent data were selected for meta-analysis. Pooled risk ratios (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for all-cause mortality, CVD mortality and CVD incidence were calculated using the random-effects model with inverse-variance weighting. RESULTS: We included 17 studies for a systematic review, followed by a meta-analysis using pertinent data. Of the 272,216 people in 4 cohort studies using the low-carbohydrate score, 15,981 (5.9%) cases of death from all-cause were reported. The risk of all-cause mortality among those with high low-carbohydrate score was significantly elevated: the pooled RR (95% CI) was 1.31 (1.07-1.59). A total of 3,214 (1.3%) cases of CVD death among 249,272 subjects in 3 cohort studies and 5,081 (2.3%) incident CVD cases among 220,691 people in different 4 cohort studies were reported. The risks of CVD mortality and incidence were not statistically increased: the pooled RRs (95% CIs) were 1.10 (0.98-1.24) and 0.98 (0.78-1.24), respectively. Analyses using low-carbohydrate/high-protein score yielded similar results. CONCLUSION: Low-carbohydrate diets were associated with a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality and they were not significantly associated with a risk of CVD mortality and incidence. However, this analysis is based on limited observational studies and large-scale trials on the complex interactions between low-carbohydrate diets and long-term outcomes are needed.

Concepts: Scientific method, Risk, Clinical trial, Relative risk, Evidence-based medicine, Actuarial science, Medical statistics, Epidemiology


Timely assessment of the burden of HIV/AIDS is essential for policy setting and programme evaluation. In this report from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 (GBD 2015), we provide national estimates of levels and trends of HIV/AIDS incidence, prevalence, coverage of antiretroviral therapy (ART), and mortality for 195 countries and territories from 1980 to 2015.

Concepts: Evaluation, Prevalence, Medical statistics, Epidemiology, Protease inhibitor, HIV, AIDS, Antiretroviral drug


Objective To estimate the benefits and harms of using corticosteroids as an adjunct treatment for sore throat.Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised control trials.Data sources Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), trial registries up to May 2017, reference lists of eligible trials, related reviews.Study selection Randomised controlled trials of the addition of corticosteroids to standard clinical care for patients aged 5 or older in emergency department and primary care settings with clinical signs of acute tonsillitis, pharyngitis, or the clinical syndrome of sore throat. Trials were included irrespective of language or publication status.Review methods Reviewers identified studies, extracted data, and assessed the quality of the evidence, independently and in duplicate. A parallel guideline committee (BMJ Rapid Recommendation) provided input on the design and interpretation of the systematic review, including the selection of outcomes important to patients. Random effects model was used for meta-analyses. Quality of evidence was assessed with the GRADE approach.Results 10 eligible trials enrolled 1426 individuals. Patients who received single low dose corticosteroids (the most common intervention was oral dexamethasone with a maximum dose of 10 mg) were twice as likely to experience pain relief after 24 hours (relative risk 2.2, 95% confidence interval 1.2 to 4.3; risk difference 12.4%; moderate quality evidence) and 1.5 times more likely to have no pain at 48 hours (1.5, 1.3 to 1.8; risk difference 18.3%; high quality). The mean time to onset of pain relief in patients treated with corticosteroids was 4.8 hours earlier (95% confidence interval -1.9 to -7.8; moderate quality) and the mean time to complete resolution of pain was 11.1 hours earlier (-0.4 to -21.8; low quality) than in those treated with placebo. The absolute pain reduction at 24 hours (visual analogue scale 0-10) was greater in patients treated with corticosteroids (mean difference 1.3, 95% confidence interval 0.7 to 1.9; moderate quality). Nine of the 10 trials sought information regarding adverse events. Six studies reported no adverse effects, and three studies reported few adverse events, which were mostly complications related to disease, with a similar incidence in both groups.Conclusion Single low dose corticosteroids can provide pain relief in patients with sore throat, with no increase in serious adverse effects. Included trials did not assess the potential risks of larger cumulative doses in patients with recurrent episodes of acute sore throat.Systematic review registration PROSPERO CRD42017067808.

Concepts: Relative risk, Systematic review, Meta-analysis, Random effects model, Clinical trial, Epidemiology, Medical statistics, Randomized controlled trial


Background The effects of empagliflozin, an inhibitor of sodium-glucose cotransporter 2, in addition to standard care, on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes at high cardiovascular risk are not known. Methods We randomly assigned patients to receive 10 mg or 25 mg of empagliflozin or placebo once daily. The primary composite outcome was death from cardiovascular causes, nonfatal myocardial infarction, or nonfatal stroke, as analyzed in the pooled empagliflozin group versus the placebo group. The key secondary composite outcome was the primary outcome plus hospitalization for unstable angina. Results A total of 7020 patients were treated (median observation time, 3.1 years). The primary outcome occurred in 490 of 4687 patients (10.5%) in the pooled empagliflozin group and in 282 of 2333 patients (12.1%) in the placebo group (hazard ratio in the empagliflozin group, 0.86; 95.02% confidence interval, 0.74 to 0.99; P=0.04 for superiority). There were no significant between-group differences in the rates of myocardial infarction or stroke, but in the empagliflozin group there were significantly lower rates of death from cardiovascular causes (3.7%, vs. 5.9% in the placebo group; 38% relative risk reduction), hospitalization for heart failure (2.7% and 4.1%, respectively; 35% relative risk reduction), and death from any cause (5.7% and 8.3%, respectively; 32% relative risk reduction). There was no significant between-group difference in the key secondary outcome (P=0.08 for superiority). Among patients receiving empagliflozin, there was an increased rate of genital infection but no increase in other adverse events. Conclusions Patients with type 2 diabetes at high risk for cardiovascular events who received empagliflozin, as compared with placebo, had a lower rate of the primary composite cardiovascular outcome and of death from any cause when the study drug was added to standard care. (Funded by Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly; EMPA-REG OUTCOME number, NCT01131676 .).

Concepts: Diabetes mellitus, Epidemiology, Obesity, Cardiovascular disease, Medical statistics, Hypertension, Atherosclerosis, Myocardial infarction


Background Previous trials suggesting that high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) reduced mortality among adults with the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) were limited by the use of outdated comparator ventilation strategies and small sample sizes. Methods In a multicenter, randomized, controlled trial conducted at 39 intensive care units in five countries, we randomly assigned adults with new-onset, moderate-to-severe ARDS to HFOV targeting lung recruitment or to a control ventilation strategy targeting lung recruitment with the use of low tidal volumes and high positive end-expiratory pressure. The primary outcome was the rate of in-hospital death from any cause. Results On the recommendation of the data monitoring committee, we stopped the trial after 548 of a planned 1200 patients had undergone randomization. The two study groups were well matched at baseline. The HFOV group underwent HFOV for a median of 3 days (interquartile range, 2 to 8); in addition, 34 of 273 patients (12%) in the control group received HFOV for refractory hypoxemia. In-hospital mortality was 47% in the HFOV group, as compared with 35% in the control group (relative risk of death with HFOV, 1.33; 95% confidence interval, 1.09 to 1.64; P=0.005). This finding was independent of baseline abnormalities in oxygenation or respiratory compliance. Patients in the HFOV group received higher doses of midazolam than did patients in the control group (199 mg per day [interquartile range, 100 to 382] vs. 141 mg per day [interquartile range, 68 to 240], P<0.001), and more patients in the HFOV group than in the control group received neuromuscular blockers (83% vs. 68%, P<0.001). In addition, more patients in the HFOV group received vasoactive drugs (91% vs. 84%, P=0.01) and received them for a longer period than did patients in the control group (5 days vs. 3 days, P=0.01). Conclusions In adults with moderate-to-severe ARDS, early application of HFOV, as compared with a ventilation strategy of low tidal volume and high positive end-expiratory pressure, does not reduce, and may increase, in-hospital mortality. (Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; Current Controlled Trials numbers, ISRCTN42992782 and ISRCTN87124254 , and numbers, NCT00474656 and NCT01506401 .).

Concepts: Pulmonary contusion, Clinical trial, Medical statistics, Sample size, Mechanical ventilation, Pulmonology, Intensive care medicine, Acute respiratory distress syndrome


In this article, the American Cancer Society provides an overview of female breast cancer statistics in the United States, including data on incidence, mortality, survival, and screening. Approximately 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 40,610 breast cancer deaths are expected to occur among US women in 2017. From 2005 to 2014, overall breast cancer incidence rates increased among Asian/Pacific Islander (1.7% per year), non-Hispanic black (NHB) (0.4% per year), and Hispanic (0.3% per year) women but were stable in non-Hispanic white (NHW) and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) women. The increasing trends were driven by increases in hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, which increased among all racial/ethnic groups, whereas rates of hormone receptor-negative breast cancers decreased. From 1989 to 2015, breast cancer death rates decreased by 39%, which translates to 322,600 averted breast cancer deaths in the United States. During 2006 to 2015, death rates decreased in all racial/ethnic groups, including AI/ANs. However, NHB women continued to have higher breast cancer death rates than NHW women, with rates 39% higher (mortality rate ratio [MRR], 1.39; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.35-1.43) in NHB women in 2015, although the disparity has ceased to widen since 2011. By state, excess death rates in black women ranged from 20% in Nevada (MRR, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.01-1.42) to 66% in Louisiana (MRR, 1.66; 95% CI, 1.54, 1.79). Notably, breast cancer death rates were not significantly different in NHB and NHW women in 7 states, perhaps reflecting an elimination of disparities and/or a lack of statistical power. Improving access to care for all populations could eliminate the racial disparity in breast cancer mortality and accelerate the reduction in deaths from this malignancy nationwide. CA Cancer J Clin 2017. © 2017 American Cancer Society.

Concepts: Medical statistics, Epidemiology, Demography, American Cancer Society, Death, United States, Cancer, Breast cancer


A thyroid ultrasound examination programme has been conducted in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, after the nuclear disaster in 2011. Although remarkably high prevalence of thyroid cancer was observed, no relevant quantitative evaluation was conducted. We calculated the observed/expected (O/E) ratio of thyroid cancer prevalence for the residents aged ≤20 years. Observed prevalence was the number of thyroid cancer cases detected by the programme through the end of April 2015. Expected prevalence was calculated as cumulative incidence by a life-table method using the national estimates of thyroid cancer incidence rate in 2001-10 (prior to the disaster) and the population of Fukushima Prefecture. The underlying assumption was that there was neither nuclear accident nor screening intervention. The observed and estimated prevalence of thyroid cancer among residents aged ≤20 years was 160.1 and 5.2, respectively, giving an O/E ratio of 30.8 [95% confidence interval (CI): 26.2, 35.9]. When the recent increasing trend in thyroid cancer was considered, the overall O/E ratio was 22.2 (95% CI: 18.9, 25.9). The cumulative number of thyroid cancer deaths in Fukushima Prefecture, estimated with the same method (annual average in 2009-13), was 0.6 under age 40. Combined with the existing knowledge about radiation effect on thyroid cancer, our descriptive analysis suggests the possibility of overdiagnosis. Evaluation including individual-level analysis is required to further clarify the contribution of underlying factors.

Concepts: Fukushima Prefecture, Denominator data, Prevalence, Tōhoku region, Incidence, Medical statistics, Epidemiology, Chernobyl disaster