Friday, January 29, 2010

First, Do No Harm - Proto Magazine - Massachusetts General Hospital

First, Do No Harm - Proto Magazine - Massachusetts General Hospital: "You mean most heart surgery is unnecessary?

A: I judge any treatment by whether it increases patient longevity or improves quality of life. Studies of coronary by–pass surgery show that for 97% of patients—those without a major blockage of the left main coronary artery—there is no meaningful improvement in longevity. Weigh that against the chance of dying on the operating table, and the increased likelihood of post-operative emotional distress and depression. There is no compelling evidence that angioplasties are more effective. The argument that any of these procedures improves quality of life is based more on myth than on substantive evidence.
Q: Then why are so many of these procedures performed?

A: We live in a time of unbridled medicalization. Sometimes that is to our benefit—if you have a fever, headache and a stiff neck, you had better be medicalized or you may succumb to meningitis. The problem is the tendency to medicalize despite science, promulgating the belief that medicine can fix everything. Such claims are promoted by the vested interests in our health-care system, including drug companies, hospitals and doctors themselves. Rather than encouraging critical thinking, peer review displaces it. Cardiologists review each others’ studies as to whether one treatment is better than the other without first asking if either really helps the patient."

It's nice to hear such a refreshingly honest point of view from a physician !

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