A USA Today investigation uncovered thousands of unnecessary surgeries around America last year. USA Today looked through government records and medical databases and concluded that 10-20% of surgeries are performed unnecessarily in certain specialties. Public attention has focused on unnecessary cardiac stent surgeries, but actually a number of other specialties have also been plagued by unnecessary surgeries.
Some other common operations that may not be warranted by the medical facts are spinal surgeries, angioplasty, pacemaker implants, hysterectomies and cesarean sections. The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed records for 112,000 patients and found that, in a surprising 22.5% of cases, there was no medical evidence to support installing an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, for example.
Similarly, Surgical Neurology International looked at 274 patients with back and neck complaints in 2011. More than 17% of these patients were told they needed surgery although they had no neurological or radiographic findings to show necessity.
Late last year, the New York Times reported that a common and popular orthopedic procedure, called arthroscopic surgery, didn’t work any better than a fake operation in helping patients. The knee surgery was intended to help people with a torn meniscus, which is a piece of cartilage that cushions and stabilizes knees. This operation is performed an estimated 700,000 times per year with a cost of $4 billion.
Why would these unnecessary surgeries be taking place? There are predatory doctors that authorize surgeries that are not necessary and bill insurers for these operations. However, there are also a number of doctors who are not competent or informed enough to realize that there are comparable non-surgical alternatives that would serve the patient better.
More than 1000 doctors around the country have settled or closed medical malpractice claims involving allegations of unnecessary or inappropriate procedures. About 50% of these included allegations of death or serious permanent injury.
The scope of these problems is huge and likely underreported. Although hospitals are required to report surgical errors and infections, they are not required to track the error of calling for surgery without good reason. There is no governmental tracking of procedures that are unnecessary. The reason this should matter more to Maine consumers is that the consequences of surgery can be problematic. If a surgery isn’t necessary, those consequences can be avoided. Nicked nerves or arteries that cause disability or surgery-related infections or complications can have dire or fatal outcomes.
It can feel overwhelming to realize that doctors don’t always make the right call about whether a patient should have a procedure done. What can you do about the problem of unnecessary surgeries as a consumer? First and foremost, you should research the procedure that a doctor wants to perform. Look up the procedure and risks associated with it on the Internet. Ask your doctor as many questions as you have, including the question of what would happen if you forego the procedure. If you suspect a procedure is not necessary, get a second opinion from another specialist.
If you have been hurt or a loved one has been killed because of a doctor’s error, you may need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to aid in recovering the compensation you deserve. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC at (888) 596-1099 or through our website today.
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