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Medical Quiz #9 – Weird Medicine Answers

by Suzanne Daniluk, RN on March 5th, 2012

Answers to last week’s Weird Medicine quiz:

1.  Learning to surf can paralyze you, and not from falling off the board.

True. Surfer’s myelopathy is a non-traumatic spinal cord injury which occurs only in novice surfers, and can result in permanent paraplegia. The mechanism of injury is ischemic in nature, caused by lack of blood flow to the spinal cord from hyperextension of the back while lying prone on the surfboard for extended time periods, in conjunction with repetitive flexion-extension of the back while trying to balance upright. The condition is so rare, however, that surfers are probably more at risk for shark bite.

2.  A stroke can leave you with a foreign accent.

True. Foreign Accent Syndrome is the result of injury, such as a stroke, to the speech area of the brain. Only about 100 cases have been reported since the 1940s. One afflicted person is Karen Butler, an Oregon resident who awoke from general anesthesia for dental surgery with an English/Irish accent. Born and raised in the U.S., Ms. Butler had never even been to Europe, yet sounds like a native of the British Isles. Although intensive speech therapy may reverse the syndrome, she declined because she prefers her new accent.

3.  A woman forgot she was married following a car accident.

True. A current-release film, The Vow, is based on the story of real-life couple Kim and Krickett Carpenter who, shortly after their marriage, were involved in a car accident in which Mrs. Carpenter suffered a head injury with coma. When she awoke, she could recall neither her wedding nor her husband. There have also been reports of persons with “fugue states” who forget their own identity, and without any known physical cause.

4.  Too much salt can shrink your brain.

True. The condition known as hypernatremic encephalopathy can cause mental changes, severe neurological damage, and death due to an abnormally high level of sodium (salt) in the blood. The brain cells literally shrink from water loss, with consequent hemorrhage. Hypernatremic encephalopathy can be caused by dehydration from failing to drink enough water, as seen in long-distance runners.

5.  A man survived, without brain damage, an arrow shot through his skull.

True. In 1992, Arthur Ekvall, a 29-year-old San Diego man, awoke with a headache to find his roommate reloading a crossbow near his bed. The man had just shot him in the head with an arrow, which entered in the lower posterior skull and nearly exited above the left eye. Mr. Ekvall disarmed the rampaging roommate and ran for help. He was then taken to the hospital for surgical removal of the arrow and lived to tell the miraculous tale. The former roommate received a life sentence for attempted murder.

6.  A woman was rendered brain-dead after being tasered by police.

True. A 20-year-old woman in Florida, who had been arrested on suspicion of a hit-and-run incident, ran out of the police station while handcuffed. Pursuing police tasered the woman. She fell backward, striking her head on the pavement and sustaining a traumatic brain injury that left her in a vegetative state.

7.  Medication to grow eyelashes can turn your blue eyes brown.

True. Darkening of eye color is a potential side effect of Latisse. The drug, originally used to treat glaucoma, was found incidentally to affect eyelash pigment, making eyelashes grow darker and more luxuriant. But it can also affect the pigment of the eye’s iris, turning light-colored eyes brown, as shown in animal studies. No human user has thus far reported such a side effect, however.

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