Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

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In 1998, the federal government mandated that breast reconstructions after a mastectomy be covered by health insurance. That was the last time anything really big happened in the field of breast reconstruction, and while it was a huge development, it wasn't an improvement to the procedure itself.

But an Austin company is aiming to transform outcomes for breast reconstruction patients through the use of 3D printing technology.

Warning: This story contains some frank discussions and revealing images of human anatomy.

KUT News

Mary Lou Brown has felt so lonely living in Austin. Since her diagnosis with lupus in 2003, she hasn’t found any support groups for people with the disease. She gets a lot of help from her husband and son, but she says no one gets what it’s like to be in pain all day long.

"[The pain] goes from your heel all the way to the scalp, where no one can touch you," Brown says.

Most of us have an immune system that protects us from germs. But if you have lupus, your immune system can’t tell the difference between the bad guys and healthy tissue, so it attacks the healthy tissue, causing inflammation and pain.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Five years ago, Moira Foley was a nurse in New Orleans. She remembers the night a teenager, a rape victim, came into her hospital. 

“We had our evidence collection kit, and this poor 16 year old who had been assaulted at Mardi Gras, and we literally had to open the kit and read the instructions," Foley remembers.

"And as I’m standing there doing it, I’m thinking, 'This is her evidence. If this goes to trial, it’s us who this is on, and we don’t know what we’re doing.'" 

That’s when she decided to get certified to perform sexual assault forensic exams, or SAFE exams. Now, she’s one of nine nurses at St. David’s who perform SAFE exams in a small room in the back of the ER.

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About half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and low-income women are more likely to have an unintended pregnancy.

A new study suggests that if birth control pills were covered by insurance and made available over the counter, the rate of unintended pregnancies would drop anywhere from seven up to 25 percent. 

The study, published in the journal Contraception, found that the number of low-income women using birth control pills would jump between 11 and 21 percent if they were both covered by insurance and made available without a prescription.

Sanofi Pasteur/flickr

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently dealing with more than 100 cases of measles. In 2014, the U.S. saw 644 cases, more than it had seen in two decades. Texas had its own measles scare as recently as January, though it ultimately was just a scare.

At the same time, politicians as public-facing as New Jersey Gov. and likely presidential candidate Chris Christie are weighing in on the ongoing vaccination debate. Christie said that parents should be given a choice of whether or not to vaccinate their kids from diseases such as the measles. Another likely presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, echoed that sentiment, saying he believes kids should not be getting "ten vaccines at once" and that parents should have "some input." 

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

The number of young physicians applying to infectious disease fellowships has been steadily declining over the last five years. Experts in Texas and across the country are worried about this looming shortage of HIV providers and brainstorming ways to turn this trend around.

Karina Kling/Time Warner Cable News

Back in October, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked two parts of a Texas abortion law called HB2, but only temporarily, until a federal appeals court rules on their constitutionality.

One key provision of the Texas law would require that all abortion clinics adopt the building standards of ambulatory surgical centers, a standard that most existing providers don't meet. These buildings cost millions of dollars to construct.

The new year is expected to bring yet another round of state laws to restrict abortion — and 2015 could also be the year a challenge to at least one of these laws could reach the Supreme Court.

The ongoing spike in abortion laws started after 2010, when Republicans won big in the midterms. Since then, state lawmakers have passed more than 200 abortion regulations — more than in the entire decade before. And with more statehouse gains in the fall elections, abortion opponents expect another good year.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

The task force put together by Texas Governor Rick Perry to evaluate the state’s response to Ebola has come out with a list of recommendations for how to handle health care workers exposed to the virus.

The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response has outlined four categories of exposure – from no identifiable risk to high risk. Those at a lower risk would just take their temperatures twice a day while high risk people would be restricted in their movement for the 21-day incubation period.

The task force says it "does not support mandatory government-imposed strict quarantine" for those who are cooperative and not showing symptoms – unless they meet the high risk description.

Officials in Dallas are taking steps to keep health workers at home who were in contact with Ebola patients or their bodily fluids. 

75 employees of the hospital which treated Liberian Thomas Duncan have been asked to sign legally binding papers in which they agree not to go to public places or use mass transit. This move marks the first steps toward the use of official state power to control the outbreak of disease.

A Georgetown man is being closely monitored, Williamson County health officials say, after sitting near Dallas nurse Amber Vinson on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas earlier this week.

Vinson was among those treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the man from Liberia who began exhibiting symptoms of Ebola shortly after he arrived in Dallas earlier this month. Duncan died eight days after being admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Gov. Rick Perry announced an executive order that will create a task force to handle the recent case of Ebola diagnosed in Dallas.

The 17-member Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response will enhance the state's readiness to handle pandemic disease, the governor’s office said in a press release. The head of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Dr. Brett P. Giroir will lead the task force.

“Over the past several days we have learned a lot about the unique challenges of situations like this,” Perry said. “And it’s important that we continue to adapt our responses to these realities.”

Over 90,000 pounds of HEB ground beef products have been recalled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after four consumers complained of metal in their ground beef, which was shipped from Sam Kane Beef Processing in Corpus Christi.

The USDA cautions consumers against four batches of ground beef:

  • Three-pound packages of “HEB Ground Chuck" with the location identification number 337.
  • Five-pound packages of “HEB Ground Beef” with 73 to 29 percent lean-to-fat ratio and the identification number 337 and a production date of Sept. 15, 2014 and a use by date of  Oct. 5, 2014.
  • 10-pound packages of “HEB Ground Beef” with 73 to 29 percent lean-to-fat ratio and the identification number 337 and a production date of Sept. 18, 2014 and a use by date of  Oct. 8, 2014.
  • 10-pound packages of pre-formed patties with the identification number 337 and a production date of Sept. 9, 2014 and a use by date of  Sept. 29, 2014.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tuesday that the first case of Ebola has appeared in the U.S.

A man in Dallas has tested positive for the virus, the agency said. The man flew to the U.S. from Liberia, arriving on Sept. 20, NPR has learned. He wasn't sick on the flight, and had no symptoms when he arrived.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Ben Johnson is combing through a list of names, addresses and mental health histories in the driver seat of a Jeep Compass. He works for Austin’s Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, MCOT, a branch of Austin Travis County Integral Care comprised of 18 licensed mental health counselors who respond to mental health crises across the county.

Johnson is deciding who to visit today. Another patient has paranoia. In addition, she's having problems at home, and is in danger of losing her housing. 

Some people dream of climbing Mount Everest or riding a bicycle across the country. Mike Davidson's dream has been to create the perfect toothbrush, and now he thinks he's done it.

The saga of this brush tells a lot about the passion and persistence to take an idea and turn it into a product.

Ebola continues to spread in West Africa. The latest figures from the World Health Organization cite 1,848 cases of the disease across the region, and 1,013 deaths. Ebola's victims also include a missionary priest who died in Spain after being evacuated from Liberia last week.

The missionary, Miguel Pajares, 75, died at Madrid's Carlos III Hospital, where he was reportedly being treated with an experimental U.S.-made serum called ZMapp.

Texas has one of the lowest rates of marijuana use in the country, according to a closely watched federal report. Recently released state level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows less than five percent of Texas adults said they had used marijuana in the last month.

Among teenagers, six percent reporting having used marijuana in the last month. That rose to almost 14 percent for the 18-25 year old demographic. Only three percent of adults over 26 in Texas said they had used pot in the last month. The survey data was collected in 2010 and 2011. 

When Leanne Brown moved to New York from Canada to earn a master's in food studies at New York University, she couldn't help noticing that Americans on a tight budget were eating a lot of processed foods heavy in carbs.

"It really bothered me," she says. "The 47 million people on food stamps — and that's a big chunk of the population — don't have the same choices everyone else does."

A federal judge ruled on Monday that an Alabama law targeting doctors who perform abortions is unconstitutional, because it places an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.