Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Handling of seizures on TV medical dramas often wrong, study finds

Television medical dramas can be misleading when it comes to the proper way to deal with epileptic seizures or convulsions, say researchers, who have found that small-screen doctors and nurses do it incorrectly more than half the time.

In a study by Dalhousie University, researchers screened all episodes of the top medical shows, including "Grey's Anatomy," "House," "Private Practice" and the last five seasons of "ER."

Of 327 episodes, there were almost 60 examples of patients experiencing seizures or convulsions, said lead investigator Andrew Moeller, a third-year medical student at the Halifax university. Of those, most took place within hospital settings on the shows and were treated by "nurses" or "doctors."

The study found that in 25 cases - about 46 per cent - the story line had health providers giving first aid for seizures in an inappropriate manner, said Moeller, who screened all 327 episodes of the medical shows. Proper treatment was shown in 17 seizures, or about 29 per cent of the time, while appropriateness could not be determined in 15 cases, or about 25 per cent of the total.

"What we characterized as inappropriate handling of it was trying to stop someone's seizing movements, trying to hold the person down or sticking something in their mouth," he said from Halifax.

"What you should be doing is clearing the area of harmful objects. If it's possible, rotate the person onto their side to keep them from hurting themselves - it's called the recovery position - and if possible put something soft under their head."

"And once they're finished the seizure, just staying with the person until they recover their full consciousness."

Moeller, who conducted the study with Halifax neurologist Dr. Mark Sadler, said the concern is that viewers who are unaware of the proper way to give first aid to someone having a seizure will take their cue from what they see on TV.

"And (they could) inadvertently hurt someone when they're actually trying to help someone."

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