Our Enormous Hidden Problem: Unnecessary Surgeries
USA Today thinks up to 20% of cardiac procedures are bogus
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Jun 20, 2013 12:52 PM CDT
Doctors are putting a lot of people under the knife who don't need it.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – There's an enormous epidemic afoot within the medical industry, and it's one that doesn't receive much attention: unnecessary surgeries. USA Today took an in-depth look at the issue, poring over the available research, and concludes that 10% to 20% of all surgeries in some specialties are unnecessary, particularly a host of cardiac procedures, spinal surgeries, and knee replacements. One 2011 study looking into more than 100,000 cardioverter-defibrillator procedures couldn't find any evidence justifying 22.5% of them. Another study followed neck and back patients, and found that 17% were prescribed unnecessary spinal procedures.

The paper's analysis found that more than 1,000 doctors have, since 2005, paid to settle or otherwise close malpractice claims related to allegations of unnecessary surgeries. Reports the paper ominously, "Those malpractice cases ... account for no more than a fraction of cases in which people got surgery that wasn't needed, and there's no way to know the total number." While some doctors are actually scammers—the paper recounts the story of one man whose baseball career was ruined by a pacemaker, implanted by a doctor who later went to jail for performing baseless surgeries—"I think there's a higher percentage who are not well trained or not competent," says one health administrator. "Then you have a big group who are more businessmen than medical professionals," who perform surgery whenever they can justify it because they're financially incentivized, too. For the full, detailed piece, click here.

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Showing 3 of 19 comments
Jun 25, 2013 9:23 AM CDT
My doctor's comment "well, you have insurance" makes me see red as my part of the bill still adds up. (I am on a fixed income) When I refuse all the extra tests, she gets pi$$ed and ends the appointment. Some tests can be dangerous and can result in permenant problems. And they are ALL exspensive.
Jun 24, 2013 6:35 AM CDT
Anyone who trusts some moneygrubbing quack's recommendation over their own instinctive knowledge of their own body gets what they deserve. Nobody's gettin' out of here alive anyway, so who cares if your quack risks your life and health with a fake surgery in order to pay off his summer home? He's the expert.. whoops, forgot the quotation marks, I mean: He's the "expert".
Jun 20, 2013 9:26 PM CDT
Years ago, I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. After hooking electrodes to my arms and "verifying" that nerve signals weren't getting through my wrists, they recommended surgery. I had really good insurance at the time. The prognosis wasn't good. It might work, it might not. 6 to 8 weeks off work. If I keep doing what I'm doing (my job) it will probably come back. On the advise of a friend I went to a chiropractor. (did I mention I had really good insurance?) He cracked my neck and the problem went away that very day and has never returned. I've come to the conclusion that these "doctors" were lying to me to cash in selling me a low risk high profit procedure at the expense of myself and my insurance company.