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Report finds unnecessary surgeries plague many thousands each year

A report found that a significant number of surgeries performed each year are not medically justified.

In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere in the nation, most people trust their physicians to recommend medical procedures that will improve their health and cure their ailments. After all, many healthcare professionals are better equipped to do this, as many have years of schooling and training. However, according to a recent report conducted by USA Today, not all physicians recommend medical procedures that are in the best interest of their patients. According to the report, tens of thousands of patients each year are pushed into surgical procedures that they do not need.

The report was based on a review of government records and medical databases. Researchers found that unnecessary surgeries account for 10-20 percent of all operations in some specialties. The report revealed that some patients that undergo unnecessary surgeries are victims of predators that aim to defraud insurance companies for procedures that are not medically justified.

In addition, it was found that other patients are talked into unnecessary surgical procedures because of medical malpractice committed by their healthcare provider. In these instances, the doctor lacks the competence or training to know when a surgical procedure is best avoided-either because it is not warranted by the patient's condition or there are safer or more effective non-surgical treatments.

According to the report's analysis, over 1,000 doctors have paid to settle medical malpractice lawsuits because of allegations of inappropriate or unnecessary surgical procedures since 2005. Since many of the claims involved more than one plaintiff, it is estimated that the victims number in the many thousands. Of course, these numbers omit the many thousands of victims that do not pursue legal action following an unnecessary operation.

Common unnecessary procedures

Although virtually any surgical procedure can be unnecessary in the right instances, federal data and other studies have identified six common surgeries that are done without medical justification. These procedures include:

Cardiac angioplasty or stents: often done when patient is not suffering acute heart attack symptoms. Studies have found up to 12 percent of these procedures are unnecessary.

Pacemakers: In up to 22 percent of cases, researches found no medical justification.

Back Surgery: Up to 17 percent of back surgeries are performed without abnormal neurological or radiological findings.

Hysterectomy: Studies found hysterectomies were improperly recommended in up to 70 percent of cases, even though there were non-surgical alternatives.

Knee/Hip replacements: A study found that when patients received information on alternative therapies, there was a 26 percent reduction in hip replacements and a 38 percent reduction in knee replacements.

Cesarean sections: A 2013 study found that cesarean rates varied widely across nationwide hospitals, even among those with low-risk pregnancies. In many of the cases reviewed, the study found that it was a costly and overused procedure.

Speak to an attorney

Unnecessary surgeries can needlessly expose patients to complications that are a risk of every surgical procedure, such as pain, blood clots, infections, nerve damage, surgical errors and other serious medical conditions. Experts say that the best way of avoiding unnecessary procedures is to ask your physician questions. Ask why the procedure is being recommended, whether there are any non-surgical alternatives, and the reason the alternatives are not being tried. If you are not satisfied with the answer, do not be afraid to seek a second opinion.

If you believe that you have been the victim of an unnecessary surgery, speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at The Law Offices of Gismondi & Associates can investigate the circumstances surrounding your claim and work to obtain the financial compensation that you are entitled to by law for the physician's negligence.

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