Surgery and Birthdays Don't Mix

By Scott LaFee

January 20, 2021 6 min read

A recent study found that older patients who underwent surgical procedures on a surgeon's birthday were more likely to die within a month of the procedure compared with those who were operated on any other day.

One possible reason may be surgeons feeling rushed to complete operations on their birthdays to accommodate post-work plans.

Hospital-Acquired Infections

Hospitals spend millions of dollars and much attention combatting nosocomial infections, i.e., infections acquired in a hospital or other health care facility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports they're making some progress:

— Bloodstream infections, typically caused when a pathogen enters the body through a catheter, are down 7%.

— Urinary tract infections caused by bacteria entering via a catheter are down 8%, 12% in ICUs.

— Infections caused by the bacterium C. difficile are down 18%.

Digital Divide

Health care via internet-based technology is growing rapidly, but not without aches and pains. A new survey by the health care financial company Cedar says 28% of patients switched or stopped going to a health care provider due to a poor digital experience.

Almost one-third complained that online payment processes were inadequate, and half said they wished their digital health experience was as seamless and intuitive as Netflix or Amazon. On the other hand, given the pandemic, more than half said they would consider switching to online providers for the sake of electronic paperwork or virtual care.

Body of Knowledge

An adult human contains 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood, accounting for 8% to 10% of body weight. A baby, on the other hand, carries only about a cup, or the same as the average adult cat.

Get Me That, Stat!

Cancer incidence in adolescents and young adults has increased nearly 30% since 1973, primarily in carcinomas, or cancers that originate in cells, such as skin or tissue lining inner organs.


60: percentage of 12th graders who report being sexually active

Source: Guttmacher Institute

Stories for the Waiting Room

German anatomist Lorenz Heister proposed this treatment option for "Bible cysts," which appear on the hands or wrists: strapping a bullet that had killed an animal to the cyst or touching it with a dead man's hand.

Perhaps more convenient, he advised smacking the cysts with a heavy book. Incidentally, they were called "Bible cysts" because Bibles were supposed to be good books to smack with, tending to be large and heavy.

Phobia of the week

Amaxophobia: fear of riding inside a car

Best Medicine

The worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades.


"Psychoanalysis is the disease it purports to cure." — Austrian writer Karl Kraus (1874-1936)

Medical History

This week in 1984, Britain's first test-tube triplets were born: a girl and two boys.

Food for Thought

Manufactured cellulose, typically made from wood pulp, is used as a thickener and stabilizer to prevent processed foods from clumping or crystalizing. Also identified as cellulose gum or gel, it's found in "diet" foods, shredded cheese and frosting. It's an insoluble fiber that contains no calories and passes straight through the digestive system. There are naturally occurring types of edible cellulose, such as broccoli stalks and celery.

Medical Myths

With Valentine's Day looming, a box of chocolates is always a good go-to, but don't count on it being an aphrodisiac. Any stimulating effects it might have aren't likely found in the chocolate's ingredients.

According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown chocolate to be "largely ineffective at producing a sexual response in men. Preliminary evidence is slightly more encouraging for improved libido in women, but more research is needed."

Does that mean more chocolate?

Med School

Can you identify the disease or condition from its older name?

1. Dropsy

2. Tympany

3. Cupid's disease

4. Consumption

5. Dry bellyache


1. Edema.

2. Serious bloating.

3. Syphilis.

4. Tuberculosis.

5. Lead poisoning.

Last Words

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP." — American actor Leonard Nimoy. Perhaps they were not his actual last words but his last tweet.

"LLAP" is short for "live long and prosper," a saying made famous by Nimoy's "Star Trek" character, Mr. Spock.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Engin_Akyurt at Pixabay

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