AP takes on medical costs of overtreatment

The AP’s Lauran Neergaard has taken on medical overtreatment in America in the first two parts of a six-part series, both of which eschew the cost angle in favor of a more purely clinical discussion. (updated link here)

Photo by Dave McLean via Flickr

In the first installment, she focuses on the medical consequences of overtreatment, which include radiation exposure and complications. She looks at every stage of life, from cesarean births to unnecessary and painful cardiac tests performed on dying patients. In the second piece, she takes on one of the most notorious sectors of overtreatment: back surgery. Back pain is notoriously complicated, and surgeries are on the rise despite little evidence that they’re necessary or effective.

“The way medicine is so Star-Treky these days, they believe something can be done,” said Dr. Charles Rosen, a spine surgeon at the University of California, Irvine.

The reality is that time often is the best antidote. Most people will experience back pain at some point, but up to 90 percent will heal on their own within weeks. In fact, for run-of-the-mill cases, doctors aren’t even supposed to do an X-ray or MRI unless the pain lingers for a month to six weeks.


1 thought on “AP takes on medical costs of overtreatment

  1. Avatar photoElaine Schattner, M.D.

    Thanks for drawing attention to this article on an important subject.

    As a physician-reader-journalist, I understand that we do too many procedures, including biopsies and back surgeries in the U.S. At the same time, as a patient with scoliosis and a history of cancer (detected, fortunately, in early stage) I know that some of these medical tools can spare people from deformity, pain and loss of life.

    The danger I see is that some well-intentioned writers, politicians and others may, in an effort to spread the word, save money and reduce unnecessary and sometimes harmful tests/procedures, discourage or preclude people who really need medical care from getting it.

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