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Unnecessary Medical Tests and Procedures

How many commonly performed medical procedures and tests are actually necessary? Are they actually causing more harm than good?

"Go to the doctor" This is a phrase we hear all the time when we are concerned something is wrong with our health.

We have it ingrained into us that doctors are somehow infallible, even when there are reports of those who have made detrimental errors. What is occurring more often than those mistakes however is something we as patients have the power to control, and that is unnecessary medical procedures.

Let's face it, the medical profession is an industry. As with most industry, it requires a demand for the product, or in this case, treatments and tests. How many of these tests are actually necessary? More importantly, are they actually causing more harm than good?


CT (Computerized Axial Tomographic) Scans

We are told to get yearly checkups, especially past a certain age, to maintain good health. Along with these yearly checkups often come tests and procedures that are ordered to "rule out" anything that may possibly be wrong.

Years ago, a broken bone or a mysterious stomach ailment would be X-rayed with plain film and the risk from radiation was minimal. Since the 1970s, simple X-rays have advanced to the more complex and thorough CT (Computerized Axial Tomographic) scan.

Doctors will often order a CT scan for even minor complaints and concerns as a "safety precaution". How "safe" can this precaution be when the radiation emitted from these machines actually cause cases of cancer?


CT Scan

62 Million CT Scans Every Year!

In November of 2007, a report published in the New England Journal Of Medicine stated that the approximate number of CT scans done each year is 62 million. This report also stated that at this rate, 1 in every 50 future cancer cases will have been caused from a CT scan. The orders for these scans continue, despite the radiation-free MRI test because the insurers are more likely to pay for a tried and true procedure.

As with most things, it is about the money and what has the better chance of paying out. Places of healing have become corporations that are about bringing in as much revenue as possible. Recently, the FDA has responded to the concerns of people who are aware of the dangers of CT scans, and claims to be working toward the prevention of dangerous levels of radiation exposure. They claim that if the scanners are operated correctly that there is "minimal risk" to the patient, and plan to enhance the equipment for safer use.

Safer CT scans or not, the fact is many of them are just not necessary. Cases of serious head wounds or trauma as well as acute gastrointestinal issues certainly warrant this procedure, as time is of the essence with these types of emergencies. Going in with some minor stomach pains or a cough that is hanging on is another matter. These can be indicative of so many minor ailments that require minimal treatment, and these avenues should always be explored first.

The Patient's Guide to Medical Tests

Medical testing and analysis available to us today is far more advanced than it was to our grandparents. There are tests that can be used to save lives and to make the quality of life better for many others. However, some tests can be quite invasive and often involves "acceptable" risks of side affects or even unknown potential problems.

If the test is really needed then the benefit of those tests may very well outweigh any associated risks. But if the tests aren't really needed then there can be no benefit so you have the worst scenario possible; all risk and no benefit. No one should ever try to play in that game!

Is it possible, or likely, that people in the medical profession might call for more tests than are really needed if they are making a profit from it? Medical testing is a huge industry - YES industry - and the bottom line is turning a profit.

Whenever you are considering having serious tests run try to educate yourself as much as you can and if necessary go for a second opinion if possible.


Surgeries and Procedures

Medical tests are not the only thing that are overdone for profit. Actual surgical procedures are performed daily with the patient going in believing that this is the only option. Women are especially at risk for this to happen in cases of unnecessary Cesarean sections and hysterectomies.

Each year the numbers of surgeries and procedures performed rise. Insurance continues to pay for these tests and surgeries as it keeps any potential lawsuits at bay.


As with any surgery, there are times when these are necessary. Issues with the placenta detaching from the uterine wall or covering the cervix will most likely require a Cesarean delivery of the baby.

This procedure can be life saving in this event, however these conditions are rare, and do not add up to the numbers of Cesarean sections done in the U.S. (over a quarter of deliveries a year are C-sections). This means that a majority of them being done are not necessary and are placing a risk on both mother and baby.


It is estimated that one third of women will have a hysterectomy by age 60.

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A hysterectomy is an invasive and permanent procedure that involves the removal of the reproductive organs. It is generally done in cases of fibroid tumors and recurrent bleeding as well as cancer.

While there are instances where a full hysterectomy is necessary, it is nowhere near the number that are done each year.

Many fibroid tumors in the uterine wall are benign and can be removed in a procedure called a momentum. This is simply the removal of the fibroids without removing the uterus and reproductive organs.

The Dangers of Antibiotics

Many of us at one time or another have taken antibiotics for an infection. The antibiotic is supposed to serve as a weapon of defense against a bacterial infection trying to attack.

There are now infections that are running rampant with a resistance to nearly every antibiotic available.

The Dangers of Antibiotics

Know Your Rights

Know Your Rights About Prescriptions, Tests and Procedures

Doctors continue to write prescriptions and order tests and procedures that they know aren't necessary and the hospitals continue to get the kickbacks. However, you as the patient don't have to allow these things to happen to you.

The most important thing is to not be afraid of your doctor.

Tell him or her that you want to discuss other options when these tests are ordered.

Obtain second opinions and explain that you want to know exactly what they expect to benefit from any test results.

Educate yourself on what treatments are available and most importantly... never be afraid to say the word "no".

It's your body... not a cash cow. Let the medical profession know you've had enough.

Unnecessary Medical Tests and Procedures?


beatriceflores from Providence, RI on November 30, 2012:

What a great hub. Very enlightening and unfortunately true.

fucsia on March 05, 2011:

This Hub is very important. We must to understand that the medicine are also a business and not always it work for our health. Or sometimes who work in this field ( I Know... I am a nurse ) think to do the better for us , focusing in our small or huge disorder, without see us in a broader vision. Great Hub! Voted Uppppp!!

kentuckyslone (author) on February 09, 2011:

According to the New York Times Lymph Node Surgery for Breast Cancer Not Always Needed, Study Says: "For about 20 percent of patients, removing cancerous nodes, a painful measure that can cause complications, does not improve survival or prevent recurrence, researchers say."

So 20% of those who have this surgery are NOT benefited BUT in 100% of the cases the Doctors/Hospitals/Drug Companies do benefit!

AnnaF on November 30, 2010:

Excellent post! I agree that many of these medical test are unnecessary1

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