Do you really need to go under the knife?

Do you really need to go under the knife?

The very idea of unnecessary surgery strikes fear in many hearts. None of us want to go through the pain, the missed work days, the expense and the stress without really needing to.

But surely our doctors wouldn’t subject us to this? If we are told to have surgery, we need it, right? Doctors wouldn’t ask us to do anything that wasn’t in our best interests – right?

According to Dr Stephen Duckett, doctors are indeed ordering unnecessary treatment in Australia.

Ahead of the health panel on October 21 where Dr Duckett will be discussing sustainability in the healthcare system, let’s look at his research findings as explained in his article on surgery on The Conversation.

The research

Dr Duckett worked on a Questionable Care Grattan Institute report that looked at treatment decisions and policies. He looked at the warning signs that treatment was ineffective, exploring the ‘clues’ that treatment choices could be wrong.

The clues

The first clue that alerted the researchers was variation – for example, between 2010 and 2011 there were 1.3 tonsillectomies for every 1,000 people in Western Sydney, compared to a rate of 7.4 along the Great South Coast in Victoria. The second clue was evidence of ineffective treatments being scheduled regularly.

The findings

It is difficult for researchers to find out exactly what is happening when they see these clues. How can they tell if some doctors are performing the surgery too often and others too rarely?

Exploring further, the researchers found evidence that some surgeries were failing to treat the original problem, and they exposed people to possible complications during the surgeries. Dr Duckett:

‘Powerful evidence shows that a certain type of arthroscopy – inserting a tube to remove tissue – won’t help people with knee osteoarthritis.

But it still happens at least 800 times a year in Australian hospitals.’

Duckett’s solutions

Unnecessary treatments, particularly surgeries, waste healthcare resources. As our healthcare system becomes pressured by an ageing population, this is a real problem.

The research findings recommended that guidance for doctors and clinicians should be easier to access and suggested that the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care could develop a list of procedures that should be avoided. Once these guidelines are established, monitoring needs to occur and those hospitals where ineffective treatment occurs would be reviewed.

Should these guidelines be taken on board, they will help our healthcare system to become safer and cheaper in the future.

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Image: Doctor by Marion Brun (CC0 1.0)

4 thoughts on “Do you really need to go under the knife?”

  1. I was offered a remedy for my atrial fibrillation at my first consultation with a cardiologist Consultant just over three years ago to stop AF, which in my case was controlled every time with minimal medication and not life threatening. I have never recovered with resultant nerve damage and blood flow problems to my head making my life a dreadful existence. I have a constant hangover effect with dizziness, at times, loss of vision, numbness, burning sensations, tingling, with numerous other symptoms. I now know that this cardiologist should never have offered this treatment. It was unnecessary!! He misled me with limited conversation and indifference. Besides the surgery being ill-conceived, my state of health is a direct result of surgical incompetence.
    He capitalized on my ignorance and trust, for personal gain in his field. I have not had one specialist prepared to diagnose my problem being a result of his surgery as my symptoms are not a typical consequence of this surgery, at the same time, protecting his reputation. One neurologist even reprimanded me for not being grateful for the AF termination?
    At my second follow-up appointment three and half months later and having found out that the x-ray machine had broken down, I asked him why the surgery took so long. He then told me that the x-ray machine had broken down. He then went on to say that I had been made aware of the risks and that he does this all the time. Startled, with this comment, I immediately told him that I had not been informed of these symptoms being the risk and that I would rather be dead than feel like this. His response to my distress and confusion was “Well, looks like it’s your word against mine”. The only empathy shown by this doctor was dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s within his reports and initial emails to my cries for help in which he was not the author.
    There was no conformance to the surgeon’s Code of Conduct, Informed Consent Policy, Competencies and essentially to Medical Consensus and safe practice while under General Anaesthetic. I had no pre-assessment, the nursing staff were not aware of my surgery taking place at his designated hospital. He has committed a litany of failures resulting in my quality of life being taken away and cannot be held accountable for his actions and disturbingly, considers himself blameless. People such as this doctor deny and deflect responsibility back on to the patient with callous disregard, due to the system not holding them accountable. This is why there are billions of dollars being squandered for no legitimate reasons. It is pure greed and egocentricity.

    1. Hi Donald, it sounds like you’ve had a really rough time, I hope that you’ve got great healthcare advice from someone you trust now.

      1. Thanks, Felicity, I am doggedly hanging in hoping that my situation can be fixed with due process, in time.

  2. My old mum was in hospital dying of breast cancer – 2 weeks before she died, she was taken to surgery to remove a minor skin cancer,
    And 12 months ago i was told i needed a knee reconstruction – which was just not correct.
    The medical surgery and procedure industry is rife with unneeded, expensive procedures that present a huge cost impost to our health services. But nothing will get done to remedy this unless more of us make a noise. The doctors and surgeons, the physios, the anesthetists and all the other players won’t do much – there’s too much money to be made.

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