Six Common Medical Procedures You Probably Don't Need

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Anyone who’s ever undergone a slew of costly and time-consuming medical procedures has probably wondered the same thing at least once: Is any of this actually worth it?Sometimes, the answer is simply no. Appendectomies are heading for the chopping block and it’s no secret doctors have been known to treat patients for diseases they don’t even have.

In an eye-opening new initiative from the ABMI Foundation and Consumer Reports, 375,000 physicians from nine leading medical organisations have developed lists of common procedures that could be a huge waste of time and resources – for doctors and patients alike.

“Many experts agree that the current way health care is delivered in the U.S. contains too much waste – with some stating that as much as 30 per cent of care delivered is duplicative or unnecessary and may not improve people’s health,” ABMI says. “In fact, such unnecessary care may harm or hinder patients’ health.”

Here’s a sample of the 45 procedures (five from each organisation) listed: 

Brain imaging scans [Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)] performed after fainting: “Probably not. Research has shown that, with no evidence of seizure or other neurologic symptoms during an exam, patient outcomes are not improved with brain imaging studies.” –American College of Physicians

Stress imaging tests for annual checkups: “Not if you are an otherwise healthy adult without cardiac symptoms. These tests rarely result in any meaningful change in patient management.” –American College of Cardiology

Chest X-rays given to patients before they go into outpatient surgery: “If the patient has an unremarkable history and physical exam, then no. Most of the time these images will not result in a change in management and has not been shown to improve patient outcomes.” –American College of Radiology

CT scan or antibiotics for chronic sinusitis: “Most acute rhinosinusitis resolves without treatment in two weeks and when uncomplicated is generally diagnosed clinically and does not require a sinus CT scan or other imaging.” –American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Routine cancer screening tests for dialysis patients who have limited life expectancies and no signs or symptoms of cancer: “These tests do not improve survival in dialysis patients with limited life expectancies, and can cause false positives which might lead to harm, over treatment and unnecessary stress.” –American Society of Nephrology

Osteoporosis screenings using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) for women under 65 or men under 70: “No, research has shown that in patients with no risk factors DEXA screening is not helpful in this age group.” –American Academy of Family Physician.

You’ll find complete lists from each organisation at or by clicking the links below: 

  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American College of Cardiology
  • American College of Physicians
  • American College of Radiology
  • American Gastroenterological Association
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • American Society of Nephrology
  • American Society of Nuclear Cardiology

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