Beware of These 4 Profit-Padding Procedures That Doctors Push

In All Health Watch, Featured Article, General Health

Doctors often continue to push medical procedures even when research clearly shows they do no good, or even are harmful.

Sometimes it’s because the physician hasn’t kept up on the research. He or she may not know that a treatment has been debunked.

Other times, it’s because of a financial incentive. High-profit surgeries are important to a physician’s bottom line.

If your doctor urges you to have any of the following procedures, you should think twice.

Four Common but Questionable Medical Procedures

1.) Stents for stable angina

Stents are tiny mesh tubes used to open heart arteries. If a patient is having a heart attack, a stent can be a lifesaver. But for heart disease patients with stable angina—chest pain caused by exertion or stress—a stent is no better at preventing a heart attack or increasing survival than lifestyle changes. These include a healthier diet and more exercise.

A major study in 2012 found that this common procedure—more than a million are performed every year—is useless. More than 7,000 patients were included in the trial. Half got a stent and the other half made lifestyle changes and/or took medication.

A slightly higher percentage of the patients getting the stent had heart attacks (8.9%) than those who didn’t (8.1%).[1]

Other research has subsequently confirmed the ineffectiveness of stents in people who haven’t had a heart attack. But the procedure is still routinely performed.[2]

Why? It’s a high-profit procedure, bringing in an average of about $36,000 for the hospital and doctors.[3]

“Stenting belongs to one of the bleakest chapters in the history of Western medicine,” said Dr. Nortin Hadler. He’s a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina. “The interventional cardiology industry has a cash flow comparable to the GDP of many countries and doesn’t want to lose it.”[4]

2.) Spinal fusion for back pain

With complex spinal fusion, a surgeon places bone grafts in the spine to fuse two or more vertebrae together. In theory, this prevents motion and stops back pain.

More than 480,000 of these procedures are performed every year in the U.S. That makes them more common than hip replacements.[5]

Doctors often use the surgery to treat back pain resulting from spinal stenosis. This occurs with aging and involves narrowing of the spinal cord. It creates pressure and pain.

But spinal fusion is a high-risk procedure. About 5% of patients have life-threatening complications like a stroke or a heart attack.

In 10% of patients, the bone grafts don’t grow together, so the procedure has no chance of success. Even among patients in which the grafts take, 20% get no pain relief from surgery.[6] [7]

Like stenting, spinal fusion is a cash cow. It costs an average of $115,000 per operation.[8]

A 2011 study compared patients who had fusion surgery for back pain to those who had physical therapy. After two years, those who had surgery were less likely to have returned to work—and more likely to be on opioid painkillers.[9]

3.) Hysterectomy for fibroids

Studies show that the vast majority of hysterectomies are unnecessary. A hysterectomy may be called for when the patient has uterine cancer. But most women undergo the procedure for concerns that are not life-threatening. These include heavy bleeding or pain caused by uterine fibroids, benign growths in the uterine wall.[10]

Studies have found that 13% of women getting a hysterectomy for fibroids have complications. And they are often serious…like an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Many women become incontinent or lose sexual desire.[11] [12]

Fibroids often go away on their own. Or they can be safely treated nonsurgically with hormone medications, ultrasound, or artery embolization.[13] [14]

4.) Knee arthroscopy for osteoarthritis

With this procedure, a surgeon repairs torn cartilage in an effort to reduce knee pain. The most common cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis.[15]

Knee arthroscopy is performed on more than 450,000 Americans every year. But multiple studies show it does nothing to help osteoarthritis pain. Noninvasive remedies work just as well. These include exercise, therapy, and supplements.[16]

A 2013 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that physical therapy produced the same results as surgery for most patients.[17]

A unique study in Finland compared the procedure to “sham surgery.” Surgeons took 205 patients with knee pain to operating rooms and made incisions. Then they either performed real surgery or faked it. Neither the patients nor the doctors evaluating them knew who had received real surgeries and who had gotten a fake operation.

A year later, there was nothing to tell them apart. The sham surgery patients had the same pain levels as those who underwent real surgery.[18] [19]

If your doctor recommends one of these procedures, don’t blindly accept their judgement. Do these three things:

  • Show your physician this article.
  • Ask about alternative treatments.
  • Get a second opinion.

If your doctor insists that you need the procedure but he or she can’t offer a valid reason why it will work for you when it has failed in studies, you should consider getting a new physician.

Editor’s Note: Is it time to dump your doctor? Answer these six questions to find out. It could save your life. Go HERE.

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