Unnecessary Surgeries

Posted on Jun 27, 2013

A USA Today study shows that tens of thousands of times each year, patients undergo surgeries that are unnecessary. In general, according to studies, knee replacements, hysterectomies, and cesarean sections are among the other surgical procedures performed more often than needed. Here’s a list of common surgeries often done unnecessarily

Who does it hurt? Most importantly, these surgeries hurt the patients. Patients who undergo operations they don’t need risk having major problems, like infections, paralysis, strokes, and more from the surgeries and hospitalizations. This USA TODAY article provides a case study on Willie Boudry, a construction worker. He was referred to a surgeon by his company’s insurer after he slipped and fell during work. After the surgeon performed unnecessary surgery on Boudry, he was permanently disabled and his career as a construction worker ended.

“I can’t make real money; I’m in chronic pain, so I can’t even drive for long. I refuse to be a cripple… But I struggle with depression, anxiety. It’s been hard,” Boudry says.

Why? Some doctors do it because of monetary motives. The millions of dollars that can be made by billing Medicare, Medicaid, and their private insurance counterparts for expensive unnecessary procedures attract doctors who wish to enrich themselves. In addition, since doctors’ income can hinge largely on the amount of surgeries they perform, those doctors tend to opt for performing surgery than to suggest non-surgical options.

However, some doctors simply lack the competence or training to recognize when a surgical procedure can be avoided, either because it’s not medically justified or because there are non-surgical treatments that would better serve the patient.

Whether it’s all about the money or simply because of poor training, unnecessary surgeries happen. And most of the time, these cases go unnoticed. The procedures are tough to identify, if not impossible. A patient could have gone through unnecessary knee replacement surgery, without knowing that the pain could have been easily relieved with physical therapy. The pain is gone, so no questions are asked.

How should we solve this problem? According to Lucian Leape, a former surgeon and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, the key is to redefine the doctor-patient relationship.

Don’t be afraid to question your doctor. Make sure your doctor is giving you all the information about a surgery before you decide what’s right for here. Here are some tips to avoid unneeded surgeries

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