Indiana University Bloomington

On 'Sound Medicine': Alzheimer’s X Prize, medical care for the elderly, and emergency room medicine

  • Aug. 14, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- The award-winning “Sound Medicine” announces its program for Aug. 18, featuring several segments focusing on care for the elderly, including ethical medical decisions, the correlation between anesthesia and dementia, and a grant for Alzheimer’s research.

How is Alzheimer’s research benefitting from the X Prize? The X Prize Foundation is known for financing a multi-million-dollar, privately built, manned spacecraft that was launched into space twice in two weeks. The X Prize Foundation is currently fundraising to award a $50 million grant to a team of researchers dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. Each year the foundation hosts a visioneering conference where professionals from all fields are given a topic and prepare a group presentation for a new X Prize. Eric C. Leuthardt, M.D., co-director of the team that proposed the  Alzheimer’s X Prize, joins host Barbara Lewis to talk about this approach to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. The goal of this X Prize is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s through innovative research and techniques. Dr. Leuthardt is an associate professor of neurological surgery and biomedical engineering at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

What role do nurses play in patient independence? According to a new study published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, nurses have an impact on the independence of older patients, even after they are discharged. The study’s co-author, Barbara King, Ph.D., RN, believes that nurses who work with patients to move around or walk frequently help older patients remain independent. According to Dr. King, over 60 percent of older patients who have a prolonged hospital stay lose the ability to walk. Dr. King found that not all nurses help get patients up and walking for several reasons: the severity of the patient’s illness, the patient's mental acuity, concern about potential injury to the nurse or the patient, or not “owning” this responsibility. To promote patient ambulation, Dr. King recommends hospitals and unit managers make patient ambulation part of their care goals. Dr. King is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing. 

Does anesthesia cause dementia in elderly patients? Because some elderly patients experience cognitive problems following surgery, some believe that anesthesia may increase an elderly patient’s risk of developing dementia. Recent research by the Mayo Clinic and David Warner, M.D.,  and his team found that although receiving anesthesia after age 45 can cause cognitive decline, it does not raise the risk of developing dementia. Dr. Warner advises patients to talk with their surgeons and anesthesiologists about ways to address cognitive dysfunction after receiving anesthesia. Dr. Warner also suggests that patients and their physicians consider less invasive procedures or use regional anesthesia for pain relief to reduce the amount of general anesthesia needed. Dr. Warner is a professor of anesthesiology at the Mayo Clinic. 

How can we help the elderly make ethical medical decisions? Holly Holmes, M.D., is an assistant professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and an expert on making ethical medical decisions that benefit elderly patients with complex health issues. Dr. Holmes says physicians should include their patients’ quality of life into consideration when making medical decisions with their patients. Dr. Holmes also stresses that elderly patients need to be involved in the decision-making process and have meaningful conversations with their physician about their treatment options and the harm or risks associated with those.

Should you go to the ER? Lee Wilbur, M.D., visits “Sound Medicine” for a special game-show-inspired segment. Dr. Wilbur is an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and is playing "ER or not" with host Barbara Lewis. Dr. Wilbur will be given a list of symptoms and asked to identify whether a person with these symptoms should go to the ER.

“Sound Medicine” covers controversial ethics topics, breakthrough research studies and the day-to-day application of recent advancements in medicine. It’s also available via podcast and Stitcher Radio for mobile phones and iPads and posts updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Co-produced by the IU School of Medicine and WFYI Public Radio (90.1 FM) and underwritten in part by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, "Sound Medicine " airs on the following Indiana public radio stations: WBSB (Anderson, 89.5 FM), WFIU (Bloomington, 103.7 FM; Columbus, 100.7 FM; Kokomo, 106.1 FM; Terre Haute, 95.1 FM), WNDY (Crawfordsville, 91.3 FM), WVPE (Elkhart/South Bend, 88.1 FM), WNIN (Evansville, 88.3 FM), WBOI (Fort Wayne, 89.1 FM), WFCI (Franklin, 89.5 FM), WBSH (Hagerstown/New Castle, 91.1 FM), WFYI (Indianapolis), WBSW (Marion, 90.9 FM), WBST (Muncie, 92.1 FM), WBSJ (Portland, 91.7 FM), WLPR (Lake County, 89.1 FM) and WBAA (West Lafayette, 101.3 FM).

“Sound Medicine” is also broadcast on these public radio stations across the country: KSKA (Anchorage, Alaska), KTNA (Talkeetna, Alaska), KUHB (Pribilof Islands, Alaska), KUAF (Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Ark.), KIDE (Hoopa Valley, Calif.), KRCC (Colorado Springs, Colo.), KEDM (Monroe, La.), WCMU (Mount Pleasant, Mich.), WCNY and WRVO-1 (Syracuse, N.Y.), KMHA (Four Bears, N.D.), WYSU (Youngstown, Ohio), KPOV (Bend, Ore.) and KEOS (College Station, Texas).

Please check local listings for broadcast dates and times.

Media Contacts

Mary Hardin

  • Indianapolis
  • Office 317-274-5456
  • mhardin@iu.edu

Sydney Willmann

  • swillman@iupui.edu