News in brief: Neurologist appointed to lead reprieved neuroscience institute; Epilepsy guidelines based on age of onset; Medical acronyms mystify patients

17 May 2022

Neurologist appointed to lead reprieved neuroscience institute

NSW neurologist Professor John Watson has been named as the new Director of the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience at the Australian National University, Canberra.

Professor Watson will take over leadership of the institute from Professor Greg Stuart after it was recently reprieved from closure during a round of $100 million cost-saving cuts at ANU in 2021.

Professor Watson is currently a Consultant Neurologist at Sydney Adventist Hospital and led the establishment of the original University of Sydney Clinical School in 2011. A neuroscientist and former Rhodes Scholar, Professor Watson graduated from Oxford University and undertook postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute of Neurology and at University College London (UCL) in high-resolution functional and structural brain imaging of the human visual system using PET and high-resolution structural MRI to study colour appreciation, visual motion, and edge detection.

He will now take up the task of developing the interdisciplinary Eccles Institute, while Professor John Bekkers, Head of the Division of Neuroscience in the ANU John Curtin School of Medical Research will continue to provide leadership and supervision to its staff and students.

Epilepsy guidelines based on age of onset

The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) Nosology and Definitions Task Force has published a series of position papers on epilepsy syndromes which have traditionally been grouped according to age at onset.

They include epilepsy syndromes presenting in neonates and infants up to age 2 years, in childhood 2-12 years, and those that may begin at variable ages in both paediatric and adult patients.

Australian paediatric neurologist Professor Ingrid Scheffer was a coauthor on the series which also includes a separate position paper on the idiopathic generalised epilepsies is included in the series.

The main goal of the series is to assist with clinical diagnosis by providing consensus on clinical context, natural history, seizure type, EEG, neuroimaging and genetic findings, and differential diagnosis.

The series does not include specific treatment recommendations.

Read more in Epilepsia.

Medical acronyms mystify patients

As more patients are accessing their electronic medical records, many fail to comprehend basic medical abbreviations and acronyms, a study has found.

Comprehension of common abbreviations such as ‘HTN’ (hypertension) and ‘MI’ (myocardial infarction) remained below 40%, much lower than clinicians estimated, a survey conducted at three US hospitals found.

The survey of 60 patients found that most understood terms such as hrs (hours) and BP (blood pressure) but only two thirds knew what ED meant and only about one in four comprehended terms such as hx (history) and HF (heart failure).

Researchers at the Department of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University, New York, said clinicians should not assume that patients will understand even the most basic medical abbreviations. Automated text programs that convert and spell out acronyms in notes may help overcome misunderstanding of some medical abbreviations, they suggested.

The findings are published in JAMA Network Open.

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