Health Highlights: March 25, 2016

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Comedian Garry Shandling Dies at 66

Comedian Garry Shandling died following a “medical emergency” in his Los Angeles home on Thursday. He was 66.

After getting a 911 call about the actor, writer and producer, Shandling was taken to a Los Angeles hospital where he later died, according to Variety magazine.

The influential comedian wasn’t known to be suffering from any illness, the magazine reported. He was perhaps best known for two television shows, “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” The latter production was one of the first series on HBO and won several Emmy awards during its six-year run in the 1990s.

Born in Chicago and raised in Tucson, Ariz., Shandling moved to Los Angeles after college and sold a script for “Sanford and Son.” The comedian also wrote for the “Welcome Back, Kotter” television series, and he guest-hosted many times on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”


New ACL Repair Method Shows Promise

A new method of repairing a common type of knee injury in athletes shows promise, according to a new study.

The standard surgical treatment for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is to reconstruct the ligament with a graft from the patient’s hamstring or patella, The New York Times reported.

A team of Boston Children’s Hospital doctors tried an experimental approach to reconnect the ligament. A blood-soaked sponge was placed between the two severed ends of the ligament and acted like a bridge to help the ligament grow back together over six to eight weeks.

Preliminary results after three months suggest that the new technique was successful in all 10 patients. It was the first time this approach — called bridge-enhanced ACL repair — had been tried in humans, The Times reported.

This was a preliminary study to assess the safety of the technique. The researchers plan to soon start accepting patients for a randomized trial to compare this ACL repair method with standard reconstruction surgery.

“This is definitely an advance,” Dr. Jo Hannafin, a senior attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, told The Times. She was not involved in the study.

“I don’t think we will know for three to five years whether this technique is really effective or not,” Hannafin added.


Medicare May Soon Cover Program to Help Prevent Diabetes

Medicare could soon pay for a program to prevent people from developing diabetes, Obama administration officials say.

They pointed to a five-year pilot program that showed older people could reduce their diabetes risk by losing weight through lifestyle counseling and regular sessions to encourage healthy eating and exercise, the Washington Post reported.

The more than 7,770 participants in the program — conducted at YMCAs nationwide — lost an average of about 5 percent of their body weight.

It’s the first experimental preventive health program to meet the standards to become part of Medicare, the Post reported.

Expanding the program within Medicare could save $2,650 over 15 months per beneficiary, compared with current payment models. Those savings would more than cover the program’s costs, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

When Medicare coverage for the diabetes prevention program might begin or how it will be funded have not been determined, officials said, the Post reported.

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