Top innovations to treat headaches, diabetes

Diabetes

Debra Sherman

The best medical innovations for next year include an almond-size device implanted in the mouth to relieve severe headaches and a handheld scanner resembling a blow dryer that detects skin cancer, the Cleveland Clinic said on Wednesday.

The clinic's annual list of the best medical innovations for 2013 includes better mammography technology and new drugs to treat advanced prostate cancer. Leading the 2013 list for innovations is an old procedure that has a new use due to findings in a recent study. Physicians and researchers at the clinic voted weight-loss surgery as the top medical innovation, not for its effectiveness in reducing obesity, but for its ability to control Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.

Over the years, bariatric surgeons noticed that the procedure would often rid obese patients of Type 2 diabetes before they even left the hospital.

Dr. Philip Schauer, head of the Cleveland Clinic's Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, led a study examining this phenomenon, and the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published the results earlier this year.

"Bariatric surgery has been around for a while," Cleveland Clinic Chief Wellness Officer Dr. Michael Roizen said in an interview. "The reason it was chosen as the top innovation is because Medicare has broadened its indication for payment, and Medicaid in many states follows Medicare. A lot of the other (private) insurance companies started covering it, so it's much more accessible."

The criteria that insurers use to cover the surgery has been broadened because of its effectiveness in controlling Type 2 diabetes, he said.

The number of people affected by diabetes has tripled over the past 30 years to more than 20 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90 percent of those cases are Type 2, a condition in which the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin.

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