Merry Christmas everyone!

 

From MedPage Today By Charles Bankhead, Staff Writer, published: December 23, 2011

How fast must one walk to stay ahead of the Grim Reaper? About 3 mph should do the trick, according to authors of a report in the holiday edition of BMJ [British Medical Journal]

Laying claim to the first quantitative estimate of the Grim Reaper’s walking speed, Australian researchers found that the scythe-wielding personification of death usually cruises at about 2 mph and never more than 3 mph.

The landmark results topped a sleighful of notable studies that included:

  • A deadly age for musicians
  • Myth and reality about stereotypes of male orthopedic surgeons
  • The most effective means to prevent “stuffing creep” in the holiday turkey (published in the BMJ specialty journal Veterinary Record)

Walk This Way

To determine the Grim Reaper’s walking speed, investigators performed a receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve analysis of data from a prospective cohort study that included 1,705 men 70 and older. The men had an average walking speed of 0.88 meters per second.

During five years of follow-up, 266 study participants died. Importantly, the Grim Reaper caught up with no men who had a walking speed of at least 1.36 meters per second (roughly 3 mph).

The ROC analysis showed that a walking speed of 0.82 meters per second (2 mph) resulted in the highest sensitivity.

“The Grim Reaper’s preferred walking speed is 0.82 meters per second under working conditions,” Danijela Gnjidic, PhD, of the University of Sydney, and co-authors wrote in conclusion.

“As none of the men in the study with walking speeds of 1.36 meters per second or greater had contact with Death, this seems to be the Grim Reaper’s most likely maximum speed; for those wishing to avoid their allotted fate, this would be the advised walking speed.

Is 27 a Deadly Age for Musicians?

The recent death of 27-year-old British pop singer Amy Winehouse resurrected debate about the existence of a “27 Club,” in reference to famous musicians who died at that age, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain.

To test the “27 Club” hypothesis, investigators in Europe and Australia examined mortality among 1,046 musicians (solo artists and band members) who had at least one No. 1 album in the United Kingdom during 1956 to 2007.

During cumulative follow-up of 21,750 musician-years, 71 (7%) musicians died. The deaths included three 27 year olds among 522 at risk, result in a rate of 0.57 deaths per 100 musician-years. The rate was similar for age 25 (0.56) and 32 (0.54).

The data failed to show a peak in deaths at or near 27, although musicians in their 20s and 30s had a two- to threefold higher mortality risk compared with the general population.

“The 27 club is unlikely to be a real phenomenon,” Adrian G. Barnett, PhD, of Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and coauthors wrote in conclusion.

“Fame may increase the risk of death among musicians, but this risk is not limited to age 27.”

How Many Orthopedic Surgeons Does It Take?

The knuckle-dragging stereotype of male orthopedic surgeons has no basis in fact or science, British investigators reported.

Data from a multicenter prospective study showed that orthopedic surgeons had significantly greater average grip strength and a significantly higher score on a standardized test of intelligence.

The study had its genesis in the offhand comment of an anesthesiologist during preparation for an orthopedic surgical procedure. Upon seeing a mallet near the operating table, the anesthesiologist repeated an age-old descriptor: “Typical orthopedic surgeon — as strong as an ox but half as bright.”

A quick literature review showed that “the stereotypical image of the strong but stupid orthopedic surgeon has not been the subject of scientific scrutiny,” Padmanabhan Subramanian, MD, of Whipps Cross Hospital in London, and co-authors wrote.

“In the absence of a cohort of willing oxen as a control group, and given that the phrase is popular with anesthetists, we designed this study to compare the mean grip strength of the dominant hand and the intelligence test score of orthopedic surgeons and anesthetists,” they added.

The study involved 36 male orthopedic surgeons and 40 male anesthesiologists at three general hospitals. Investigators assessed dominant-hand strength by means of a standard hydraulic hand dynamometer and intelligence by means of the Mensa Brain Test as a surrogate for intelligence quotient (IQ).

The results showed that orthopedic surgeons had a mean intelligence score of 105.19 versus 98.38 for anesthesiologists (P=0.0489) and a mean grip strength of 47.25 versus 43.83 kg (P=0.0274).

“The stereotypical image of male orthopedic surgeons as strong but stupid is unjustified in comparison with their male anesthetist counterparts,” the authors wrote in conclusion. “The comedic repertoire of the average anesthetist needs to be revised in light of these data.

“However, we would recommend caution in making fun of orthopedic surgeons, as unwary anesthetists may find themselves on the receiving end of a sharp and quick-witted retort from their intellectually sharper friends or may be greeted with a crushing handshake at their next encounter.”

Staples Top Stitches for ‘Stuffing Creep’

Surgical staples provided a more secure and cosmetically appealing approach to prevent “stuffing creep” in holiday turkeys, results of a randomized trial showed.

The stapled birds had near-perfect scores for skin breakage and cosmesis as compared with four different methods of stitching.

“Deboning and stuffing a turkey is regarded as an art in cooking sciences,” Denis Verwilghen, DVM, of Large Animal University Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden, and co-authors wrote in Veterinary Record.”Little meat should be lost and the stuffing should be firmly packed into the emptied abdomen.”

To determine how to achieve the best results with a stuffed turkey, the authors randomly assigned 15 birds to suturing with four different stitch patterns or with surgical staples. The turkeys were baked by a standardized methodology and then analyzed for skin breakage (scale of 0 to 3) and cosmetic appearance (1 to 5).

Stapled birds had a mean score of 0.3 for skin breakage and 4.6 for cosmetic appearance.

Though fast and effective, surgical stapling does have one potential downside, the authors noted in their assessment of the results: “indigestibility if [a staple] is forgotten in a served piece of turkey.”

“Using this technique, you will be able to impress family and friends at a Christmas dinner and finally show them your surgical skills,” the authors wrote in conclusion.