Routine medical tests cause more harm than good: US doctors

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Washington: A group of leading US medical societies have released a list of close to 100 routine tests, treatments and procedures that medical professionals say are often unnecessary, costly and could cause more harm than good.

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“Twenty-five of the nation’s leading medical specialty societies have now spoken up and shown leadership by identifying what tests and treatments are common to their profession, but not always beneficial,” said Christine Cassel, president and chief executive officer of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation, in an online statement.

This year’s list, part of a campaign called “Choosing Wisely” organised by the ABIM Foundation, adds 90 overused medical treatments to 2012’s list.

The doctors who worked on the report said the medical procedures are often overused due to doctors’ personal habits, while others come about when patients demand care they believe they need.

For instance, in average risk women between the ages of 30 and 65 or under the age of 21, an annual Pap cervical screening offers no advantage over screenings performed at three-year intervals, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AGOC) found.

And because babies delivered early can have lung problems, AGOC doctors advise against inducing labor or performing a caesarean section before a full 39 weeks of pregnancy, unless there is a medical reason to do so.

Another common practice, prescribing antibiotics for both sinus infections and conjunctivitis, was also found to be unnecessary in most cases.

Those ailments, doctors said, are almost always caused by a virus, which antibiotics do not treat.

Approximately 50 percent of children who visit hospital emergency departments with head injuries receive a CT scan, which increases exposure to radiation and could cause an escalated risk of cancer later in life.

Doctors also warned against using feeding tubes in patients with advanced dementia.

Instead they recommend assistance with oral feeding is a better, evidence-based approach.

“Recurrent headache is the most common pain problem, affecting up to 20 percent of people,” doctors with the American Academy of Neurology said in the report.

Doctors found that performing an electroencephalography (EEG) on patients with recurrent headaches, a common practice in the US, had no advantage over clinical evaluation in diagnosing headaches, and can result in higher medical costs.

“Millions of Americans are increasingly realizing that when it comes to health care, more is not necessarily better,” Cassel said in statement.

“Through these lists of tests and procedures, we hope to encourage conversations between physicians and patients about what care they truly need.”