just how common are unnecessary surgeries

Even if you make the decision to undergo surgery, a large part of you is probably not entirely comfortable with the prospect of being put under with general anesthesia, having a team of medical professionals perform an invasive procedure and spending long hours recovering in a hospital bed. However, you put aside this discomfort in the name of better health.

What if you later learned that there was a viable nonsurgical alternative to your condition that would have achieved virtually identical results and spared you all of the aforementioned discomfort?

According to a recent report in USA Today, tens of thousands of patients across the United States undergo unnecessary surgeries every year. These patients are not only needlessly subjected to the time and costs of surgery, but also to its inherent risks such as infections, anesthesia errors or surgical mishaps.

How exactly do these unnecessary surgeries even occur?

The USA Today piece identifies two common scenarios in which unnecessary surgeries typically occur. In the first scenario, the physicians in question are fully aware that the procedures are not medically necessary, but they perform them anyway to make money from the insurance companies or federal government. In the second — and more common — scenario, the physicians simply lack the requite competence and/or training to understand that there are better nonsurgical alternatives available.

What makes unnecessary surgeries so troublesome, say experts, is that they are very hard to spot. That’s because if everything goes according to plan, and the patient ends up feeling better, the patient is essentially none the wiser. Indeed, unless there are complications or law enforcement officials begin looking into the matter, it’s likely to go entirely undiscovered.

What then can patients do to protect themselves from unnecessary surgeries?

Patient safety experts advise patients to understand that they have choices and to take an active role in the management of their care. This means everything from asking questions to getting a second opinion.

“Research your doctor, research the procedure, ask questions, including the most important one: ‘What will happen if I don’t get this done?'” said Patty Skolnik, founder of Citizens for Patient Safety. “People often feel pressed to make immediate decisions on surgery when there’s no rush. I say, ‘Slow it down. Stabilize and get another opinion.'”

Please visit our website if you feel that you or a family member has been victimized by some form of surgical negligence.

Source: USA Today, “Doctors perform thousands of unnecessary surgeries,” Peter Eisler and Barbara Hansen, June 20, 2013 

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