Advertisement
Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

WebMD's editorial staff on the latest news from the world of health.

Important:

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, review, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have... Expand

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Hide

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Are You Getting Tests You Don’t Need?

by Daniel J. DeNoon

Are you getting too many medical tests or treatments?

You might be, nine major medical groups say. These common tests can be lifesavers for people who need them.

So what’s the harm of an extra test or two just to be on the safe side?

All medical procedures, including tests, carry some risk. Even if the risk of physical harm is small, there’s the risk of a false-positive result — or of overdiagnosis, that is, finding and fixing a problem that never would have bothered you.

And, oh yes: The extra procedures add to the cost of your treatment.

Are you getting too many tests and treatments? Here’s the list, by medical specialty:

Family physicians say you probably don’t need:

  • Imaging tests for low back pain during the first six weeks.
  • Antibiotics for mild or moderate sinus infections, unless symptoms last for 7 days or symptoms worsen after getting better.
  • The DEXA osteoporosis test if you’re a woman younger than 65 or a man under 70 with no risk factors.
  • Pap smears if you’re a woman under age 21 or a woman who had a hysterectomy for a non-cancer reason.

The American College of Physicians says you probably don’t need:

  • ECG tests if you don’t have symptoms and are at low risk of heart disease
  • Brain imaging (CT or MRI scans) if you fainted and have a normal neurological exam.
  • Pre-operative chest X-rays if you don’t appear to need them.

Cancer doctors say you probably don’t need:

  • Treatments aimed at eliminating solid tumors if you are weak and frail, did not benefit from previous treatments, and there’s no sign more treatment will help.
  • PET, CT, or bone scans if you have early-stage prostate cancer with low risk of spreading.
  • PET, CT, or bone scans if you have early-stage breast cancer with low risk of spreading.
  • Biomarker tests or imaging surveillance studies if you’ve had curative treatment for breast cancer.

Cardiologists say you probably don’t need:

  • Exercise stress tests if you don’t have symptoms or high risk of heart disease.
  • Exercise stress tests or advanced imaging for routine follow-up exams if you don’t have any symptoms.

Gastroenterologists say you probably don’t need:

  • Any more than the lowest effective dose of antacids for long-term treatment of reflux (GERD).
  • Repeat colon cancer screening of any kind for 10 years after a colonoscopy finds no polyps or tumors.
  • Repeat colonoscopy for 5 years after having one or two small polyps removed via colonoscopy.

Radiologists say you probably don’t need:

  • Imaging studies if you have uncomplicated headache.
  • Imaging studies for pulmonary embolism if you don’t have suspicious findings from other tests.
  • CT scans in children with suspected appendicitis, until ultrasound has been considered.
  • Follow-up imaging studies for ovarian cysts that aren’t causing a problem.

Allergists say you probably don’t need:

  • Unproven tests — such as IgG tests or a battery of IgE tests — to find out what you are allergic to.
  • Sinus CT scans or antibiotics for uncomplicated sinus infections.
  • Routine extensive diagnostic testing if you have chronic hives.

So what do you think? Would you miss getting these routine tests or treatments? Have you recently had an unnecessary test or treatment? How much have you been paying for these needless procedures?

 

Posted by: Daniel DeNoon at 11:08 am

Comments

Leave a comment

Subscribe & Stay Informed

WebMD Daily

Get your daily dose of healthy living, diet, exercise and health news from WebMD!

Archives

WebMD Health News