Medical Procedures You Don’t Need
A friend of mine went to see his doctor. My friend was in good health but his doctor told him it might be a good idea to get a routine electrocardiogram (EKG-a test that measures the electrical signals in the heart) and a routine stress test (a test that by stressing the heart may disclose damage). The stress test showed that he might have some blockage in his heart and he was advised to undergo surgery. After the surgery, his kidneys failed, he had an acute gall bladder attack, he required over 20 blood transfusions and he still isn’t back to his state of health before seeing the doctor. It was a medical procedure he didn’t need. Sure, every now and then one of these unnecessary tests will turn up something important, but for every one like that, there are thousands that show nothing.
The American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation asked a number of the organizations that represent doctors in different specialties to recommend tests that were being performed on large numbers of people but that, except in certain circumstances, were unnecessary. This is what they came up with:
Routine EKGs and Stress Tests
People who are at low risk for heart disease are 10 times more likely to have a false positive result than a real problem, resulting in millions of unnecessary surgeries or other treatments, which can threaten life. If you have a risk factor such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and others the test may make sense, but if you are well without risk factors, don’t let them do it to you.
Bone Scans for Women under 65 and Men Under 70
If you are a woman under 65 or a man under 70, a bone scan for osteoporosis is not needed unless you are a smoker, have used steroids, have low body weight, or have had a fracture. You may end up taking medication you don’t need, worrying needlessly about your bones and taking medications with serious side effects.
Antibiotics for Mild or Moderate Sinus Infections
Most sinus infections (over 90%) are caused by a virus and do not respond to antibiotics. You may be allergic to the antibiotic or develop a resistance to that antibiotic when you need it later. If your infection lasts more than 7 days or becomes bacterial, you may need an antibiotic.
Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Painkillers (NSAIDS) like Advil or Motrin for People with Heart Failure, High Blood Pressure or Chronic Kidney Disease
In these types of patients the NSAIDS, used for arthritis or headache, may raise the blood pressure, worsen the heart failure or increase the kidney failure. They can also cause bleeding in the stomach. People with these conditions have twice as many deaths from heart attacks and strokes when given those drugs.
CT Scans or MRIs for Uncomplicated Headaches
Not only is the test wasteful because it rarely shows anything important, but the radiation exposure is harmful. Doctors may be concerned about malpractice should something turn up later. It almost never does. If you have symptoms like blurred vision, trouble speaking or weakness on one side of your body, it may be helpful.
A blood test called immunoglobulin for food allergies does not work. If positive, it simply means that your immune system is working. Also doing a large battery of blood and skin tests for seasonal allergies is not necessary. Taking a careful history of the allergies from the patient will narrow the tests to just a few.
X-ray, CT scan or MRI for Low Back Pain
Most patients with low back pain get better regardless of the treatment. The patient does not need the exposure to radiation and the expensive back surgery that doesn’t cure the problem. If the doctor suspects that you have a serious condition, then these tests are indicated.