Jack Rodolico

The national death rate from knee replacement surgery is about one in a thousand. But patients are three times more likely to die if they have their knee replaced at a hospital that doesn’t perform that surgery frequently.

Now three leading healthcare systems, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock, are putting restrictions on their surgeons. 

Internet Archive Book Images via flickr Creative Commons

In the last decade, cosmetic procedures performed on Asian-Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans have far outpaced those among the white population. The goal? Westernizing ethnic features.  Today we put ethnic plastic surgery on the examination table. Then, scientists are demystifying what may be the least understood human organ: the placenta. Plus, we share some personal stories from the delivery room.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

phalinn via Flickr Creative Commons

Surgery requires years of education, steady hands, extreme confidence, and…kindness? Today we ask: when it comes to being a good surgeon, does bedside manner matter? Then, we head into the OR to find out what some surgeons listen to while their patients are under the knife. Plus, how some European hospitals are harnessing beagles’ sense of smell to detect superbugs. And, one game designer has come up with a simulator which allows players to experience what it’s like coming out to your parents.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

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In 1970, Dr. Robert White attempted an experimental surgical procedure that might as well have been lifted from the pages of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – he removed the head of one living monkey, and attached it to the body of another. Dr. White called it a head transplant and a success. His detractors called it a medical and ethical nightmare. In June of this year, Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero declared that advances in medical technology have made head transplants possible. A number of medical professionals greeted his announcement with skepticism. The Atlantic’s health editor James Hamblin wrote about how Canavero says the procedure will work.

Fort Bellvoir Community Hospital via flickr Creative Commons

Pharmaceutical companies have long gotten a bad rap for trying to influence medical decisions for a profit – but the issue isn’t exclusive to drugs. New York Times reporter Roni Caryn Rabin recently wrote about aggressive tactics used to market the Da Vinci Surgical System – a robotic assistant now operating in over 1300 hospitals across the United States.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is recovering from a heart transplant he received Saturday at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va.

The operation makes Cheney among more than 2,300 Americans who get heart transplants every year.

Heart transplantation has come a long way since Christiaan Barnard stitched the heart of a young woman into the chest of a middle-aged man in South Africa in 1967. That transplant recipient died 18 days later. Today, recipients can expect to get a decade or more of life from their new hearts.

When Susy Mansfield needed a hip replacement in 2009, her orthopedic surgeon chose a relatively new and untested kind of artificial hip made entirely of metal.

"He said, 'You're young. Metal is good for younger people. It's going to last a lot longer,' " says Mansfield, who was 57 at the time.

When a nerve is injured, it's often hard to get it to regrow fast enough to restore function.

But now researchers say they can speed up that process, so that damaged nerves can be healed in days instead of months — at least in rats.

The scientists say they've developed a technique that reconnects the severed ends of a nerve, allowing it to begin carrying messages again very quickly. Usually, severed nerves must regrow from the point of injury — a process that can take months, if it ever happens.

One tool doesn't fit all when it comes to surgery.

Pediatric surgeons know this all too well when it's time to operate on a baby. Some infants are born prematurely. Others have congenital defects — some part of their internal anatomy that just didn't develop the way it was supposed to.