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Unnecessary surgeries how often are they done?

Unnecessary surgeries and medical care

Health care costs are skyrocketing but each year tens of thousands of times each year, patients are wheeled into the nation's operating rooms for unnecessary surgeries. Many patients are now starting to ask the question, “Is surgery really necessary?” Other are asking a much more sinister question, “Could some doctors be performing unnecessary surgeries to bilk insurers out of thousands of dollars for operations?”

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. USA Today in a recent study found 10% to 20% of some common surgeries are done unnecessarily. Some surgeries may be done out of pure greed, but the study also indicates more frequently doctors may lack the medical training or information to recognize that some surgeries could be avoided and alternative treatments may be better for the patient.

Problems go unrecognized with unnecessary surgeries

Unfortunately, although victims of unnecessary surgeries can suffer their entire lives, the problem and the scope of the problem may not be fully realized. Most of us just hear about the most egregious examples of medical misconduct. But there are a range of surgeries which are performed each year such as angioplasty, pacemaker implants, spinal surgeries, knee replacements, hysterectomies, and cesarean sections which may not be needed.

Although there have been studies done to examine the incidence of unnecessary surgeries, experts contend little has been done to address the problem. For instance, Lucian Leape, a former surgeon and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, began studying unnecessary surgery after a 1974 congressional report estimated that there were 2.4 million cases a year, killing nearly 12,000 patients. He claims that nothing much has changed.

Costs to you the taxpayer for unnecessary surgeries?

Not only do unnecessary surgeries potentially threaten the lives of patients, they also cost taxpayers millions if not billions of dollars. And when Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies spend billions of dollars on unnecessary medical procedures this eliminates money which could have been put to better use.

The number one issue for addressing unnecessary surgeries is identifying them. For example, for patients who have had their spine fused or a knee replaced they may be happy with the procedure, especially if their pain is eliminated, but some of these patients may also have been helped with physical therapy or a less invasive procedure. But the symptoms are gone, so the patient suspects nothing.

Are unnecessary surgeries just a matter of money?

What many experts suggest is unnecessary surgeries may simply come down to three issues: the immoral, the incompetent and the indifferent. Investigators seem to most concerned with the immoral.

The “immoral” encompasses doctors who perform needless operations to enrich themselves. These doctors have become the target of fraud investigators. The FBI acknowledges they take these cases very seriously, but they also admit these cases are very tough to identify and prove, especially if they wind up in court with dueling experts arguing their side of the case. These cases are most frequently won when the investigators can prove the surgical numbers of a specific doctor don’t match the percentages of surgeries done by other doctors in the same profession.
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