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ER Expands

  Ochsner Health System will offer emergency room (ER) services at the Ochsner Baptist Medical Center (2700 Napoleon Ave.) starting next week. The ER, which opens Jan. 12, will be fully staffed and will have two trauma rooms, 10 exam rooms and one triage room. The staff can handle most emergencies, except open-heart and neurological surgeries. — David Winkler-Schmit

Drug-free Kids

  Dr. Martin Irwin, professor of psychiatry at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC), is launching a national program to curb a controversial trend in children's psychiatric care: off-label use of antipsychotic medications.

  The Get Kids Off Medicine program is dedicated to diminishing the use of antipsychotic medication among children diagnosed with multiple psychiatric conditions.

  "We have a system in place that is prescribing multiple medications to young children," Irwin says. "Some of these drugs, like Abilify, have proven effective in patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, but they are now being used to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in children as young as 6." Many of these drugs carry short- and long-term side effects, including overly sedate behavior and obesity, he says.

  Irwin believes a proper diagnosis is the first step to correct the problem. Children who participate in the program will undergo thorough tests, and the results will be used to formulate an evidence-based diagnosis. Irwin then will prescribe psychosocial interventions in lieu of medication. "The new treatment often proves more effective than the multiple medicines, and they do not have any of the side effects," he says.

  Irwin says the program offers alternatives to medication but does not aim to eliminate pharmaceuticals in all cases. "Medicine, when used correctly, can be effective during treatment," he says. "When used in conjunction with an evidence-based diagnosis, medicine can offer relief to children and concerned families."

  Call 412-1580 for information about the program. — Bryan Davis

Emergency Care Scores Low

  The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) recently gave Louisiana's emergency health care system a "D+" rating, ranking it 36th in the nation. According to the group's National Report Card on the State of Emergency Medicine, Louisiana needs to drastically improve access to emergency care, patient safety, public health and injury prevention.

  Since Hurricane Katrina, the state has implemented many new measures of emergency preparedness. The ACEP recognized these improvements and awarded Louisiana an "A" for disaster preparedness. In public health and injury prevention, however, Louisiana received an "F," and the worst ranking in the nation.

  The ACEP gave the country overall a grade of "C-" in emergency patient support. Massachusetts earned the highest overall grade of a "B," while Arkansas ranked last with a "D-". — Davis

Relax and Prevent

  Touro's new Women's Imaging Center is using comfortable surroundings and convenient services to help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with mammograms and other screening procedures.

  The center features a comfortable main waiting room that has wood floors and tasteful art. Before patients see their doctors, they are escorted to individual waiting rooms where they can change into their exam gowns and relax before their appointments.

  Touro officials say they hope the new amenities will encourage women to schedule regular checkups and life-saving screenings. The American Cancer Society suggests all women over 40 have a mammogram once a year.

  The Imaging Center offers breast MRIs, breast ultrasounds, obstetric ultrasounds and both screening and diagnostic full-field digital mammographies. It also provides flexible appointment hours and delivers test results faster than usual. To make an appointment, call 897-8600. — Davis

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