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February 6, 1997


Smoke detector use lacking, UPMC study shows

A study by University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researchers has found that 8 percent of homes in Pennsylvania lack smoke detectors and an additional 6 percent lack smoke detectors on the same floor where occupants sleep.

Low-income households, homes in rural counties and homes where smokers reside were less likely to have installed smoke detectors, according to the study. Households with annual incomes of less than $20,000 were nearly twice as likely to lack installed smoke detectors, the UPMC researchers found.

The study, by the UPMC Center for Injury Research and Control, is published in the January 1997 issue of the Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation.

Fire and burn injuries are the fourth-leading cause of unintentional injury deaths. During 1993, 210 Pennsylvanians died as a result of fire and flames, and hospitalizations from fires resulted in estimated hospital charges of more than $31 million.

Samuel N. Forjuoh, Pitt research assistant professor of emergency medicine and principal investigator of the study, said: "Many of the deaths, disabilities, impairments and hospitalizations from residential fires could be averted by the proper use of functional smoke detectors along with knowledge and practice of fire escape mechanisms. Just having a smoke detector in the home isn't enough protection. It must be checked regularly, at least every six months."


Researchers develop new method to assess severity of pneumonia

Researchers at Pitt, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia, have devised a simple and accurate method to assess the severity of community-acquired pneumonia which may help define the need for hospitalization.

The method identifies predictive factors, outlines a two-step process to classify patients according to their risk of death or other adverse outcomes within 30 days of diagnosis and recommends treatment options for each risk group.

The study results from the Pneumonia Patient Outcomes Research Team, coordinated at Pitt, were published in the Jan. 23 New England Journal of Medicine.

"These findings represent the first step towards developing a set of guidelines for managing this disease which will improve patient outcomes and minimize costs," said Michael J. Fine, Pitt associate professor of medicine and co-principal investigator of the study. "The majority of low-risk patients identified by this method can be treated safely in the outpatient setting rather than in the hospital, thereby improving the cost-effectiveness of treatment without compromising the quality of care." Approximately four million adults are diagnosed with community-acquired pneumonia each year in the U.S.; more than 600,000 are hospitalized. Total costs of medical treatment for patients with this illness exceed $4 billion each year. Hospitalization costs are estimated to be 10 to 15 times higher than the costs of outpatient treatment.

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