Health Highlights: March 14, 2012

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

3 Brands of Pet Treats Possibly Linked to Dog Illnesses

Some specific brands of jerky pet treats possibly linked to kidney failure and other serious illnesses reported in at least 600 dogs in the United States are cited in internal Food and Drug Administration documents.

Of 22 “Priority 1” cases listed in a log of complaints from pet owners and veterinarians, 13 cited Waggin’ Train or Canyon Creek Ranch jerky treats or tenders, both produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co., according to the documents obtained by

Three other cases listed Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats, produced by the Del Monte Corp. The rest of the cases listed single brands or no brand.

An FDA spokeswoman said Priority 1 cases involve animals aged 11 or younger for which medical records that document illness are available, reported.

Officials at Nestle Purina and Del Monte officials said their pet treats are safe. FDA officials said repeated tests have found no solid link between the dog illnesses and any jerky treat brand or manufacturer.


Doctors Repair Airway Disorder in Fetus

In what they say was a world-first surgery, Spanish doctors fixed a blocked bronchial tube in a 26-week-old fetus while she was still in her mother’s womb.

The fetus had bronchial atresia, a condition in which the air tubes (bronchi) leading from the trachea to the lungs do not connect properly with the central airways. The condition results in the death of the fetus in 90 percent of cases, Agence France-Presse reported.

The surgery, which lasted 30 minutes, was performed in late 2010. The doctors used an endoscope to go through the fetus’ mouth and connect the right bronchi with the central airways.

Eleven weeks after the procedure, the mother gave birth to a 5.5-pound girl named Alaitz, which means “joy” in the Basque language. The baby is now 16 months old and healthy.

“It is the first time in the world that this has been achieved. It is the first time that it has been tried and it turned out well,” Eduard Gratacos, the head of the maternal-fetal medicine department at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, said at a news conference Tuesday, AFP reported.

“It is an extremely delicate operation since it is carried out near the heart on tissues as thin as cigarette paper. But without this fetal therapy, the baby would not have survived,” Gratacos explained.


Planned Repeat C-Sections May be Safer: Studies

Women who have a planned cesarean delivery after a previous c-section are less likely to experience severe complications, according to two studies.

An Australian team found that the risk of stillbirth was lower in women who had a planned repeat c-section compared to those who opted for natural birth, BBC News reported.

U.K. researchers found that the risk of womb rupture was lower for women who had an elective repeat c-section.

The studies were published in the journal PLoS Medicine.

Experts say the risks are low for both natural birth and c-section, BBC News reported. Women should discuss their individual options with their health care provider, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises.


Doc-Prescribed Heroin May Work Better Than Methadone as Treatment: Study

Medically prescribed heroin is more cost-effective than methadone for treating heroin addicts, according to findings from North America’s first clinical trial of prescribed heroin.

Compared to patients who received methadone, those who received the medically prescribed heroin in the form of diacetylmorphine stayed in treatment longer and spent less time in relapse, which was associated with less criminal activity and lower healthcare costs, reported the National Post in Canada.

Patients who received the medically prescribed heroin also lived longer than those who received methadone.

The study predicted an average lifetime societal cost of $1.09 million for addicts who received medically prescribed heroin and $1.14 million for those who received methadone, the Post reported. The costs include treatment expenses and costs to the justice system.

The findings were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.


Treatment Halts World’s Tallest Man’s Growth

Treatment to stop the world’s tallest man from growing has been successful, according to University of Virginia doctors.

The Daily Progress newspaper said 8-foot-3 Sultan Kosen of Turkey had a tumor in his pituitary gland that was causing excess growth hormone and gigantism, USA Today reported.

It was feared that continued growth would put the 29-year-old at even greater risk for joint and organ problems. Doctors began radiation treatment on the tumor in 2010 and it was confirmed three months ago that Kosen had stopped growing.

The treatment involved the use of gamma knife radiosurgery, which delivers a focused beam of radiation to the tumor. But The Daily Progress said before the procedure could be performed, special medical equipment to fit Kosen’s enormous skull had to be flown in from Sweden, USA Today reported.