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Health Highlights: April 10, 2013

2013-Apr-10

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

IVF Pioneer Dies at Age 87

Robert Edwards, the British scientist who was a pioneer of in vitro fertilization (IVF) has died. He was 87.

The Nobel Prize winner passed away in his sleep, the University of Cambridge said Wednesday. Edwards was a professor at the university.

He and colleague Dr. Patrick Steptoe developed IVF, which led to the birth in 1978 of the world's first test-tube baby, Louise Brown. Since then, more than 4 million babies have been born using this technique, the Associated Pressreported.

Edwards received the 2010 Nobel prize in medicine for the development of IVF. Steptoe was no longer alive and Nobel prizes are not awarded posthumously.

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Young Boy Recovers From H7N9 Bird Flu

A 4-year-old boy in Shanghai who was hospitalized due to infection with H7N9 bird flu has recovered and been discharged, according to a doctor in the infectious disease department of the Pediatric Hospital affiliated with Fudan University in Shanghai.

The doctor, who refused to give her name, said she did not know if this was the first recovery from H7N9, the Associated Pressreported.

However, the official state news agency Xinhuadid say that the boy was the first person to completely recover from H7N9. To date, 28 people in China are confirmed to have been infected with the new strain of bird flu and nine of them have died.

People appear to be getting sick from direct contact with infected birds, according to Chinese officials. But they say it is difficult to track the virus because it seems to be spreading in birds without making them ill, the APreported.

In related news, South African officials said Tuesday that the H7N1 bird flu strain has been detected on an ostrich farm and that farms in a two-mile radius have been quarantined while an investigation is conducted, the APreported.

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FDA Probing Problems With Robotic Surgery System

There has been a huge increase in the use of a surgical robot called da Vinci, but health officials are investigating reports of a number of problems --including several deaths -- associated with the device.

The robot was used in nearly 400,000 surgeries in the United States last year, triple the number compared to four years earlier, the Associated Pressreported.

The da Vinci is used in a number of procedures, including removal of gallbladders, wombs and prostates, heart valve repair, organ transplants and reducing stomach size. Surgeons control the robot while sitting at a computer screen.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating reports of problems with the da Vinci and the high cost of using the system. Those incidents include: a robotic hand that would not release tissue grasped during surgery; a woman who died when a blood vessel was nicked during a hysterectomy; and a man whose colon was perforated during prostate surgery, the APreported.

Some doctors say aggressive marketing and the technological appeal of the robot have helped increase its use and that it is time to take a closer look at the device. They contend that there is not enough proof that robotic surgery is at least as good or better than conventional surgeries.

Proponents say patients who undergo robotic surgery sometimes have less bleeding and often leave hospital sooner than those who have conventional laparoscopic or open surgery, the APreported.

However, the FDA is looking into an increase in the number of reported problems involving the da Vinci system. At least five deaths are mentioned in reports filed since early last year.

The da Vinci is the only FDA-approved robotic system for soft-tissue surgery. Other robotic devices are approved for other types of operations, including neurosurgery and orthopedic procedures, the APreported.

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The information in this article, including reference materials, are provided to you solely for educational or research purposes. Information in reference materials, are not and should not be considered professional health care advice upon which you should rely. Health care information changes rapidly and consequently, information in this article may be out of date. Questions about personal health should always be referred to a physician or other health care professional.