The old adage says, “To a man with a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” It’s an amusing observation… until you apply it to surgery.
The latest evidence suggests surgeons see the world very much like that man with the hammer. And the result has been millions of pointless surgeries.
The latest example reveals doctors perform over 200,000 pointless surgeries every year. For just one problem. And that’s in the U.S. alone. Worldwide, the number is much higher.
And that’s just one example. Before you submit to any surgery, here’s what you need to know…
The Shoulder Pain Cure That Isn’t
“Shoulder impingement syndrome” is a common problem. It’s often called “thrower’s shoulder” or “swimmer’s shoulder.” It’s caused by inflammation of the muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff.
The standard treatment is “keyhole” surgery. This is a minimally invasive surgery to “decompress” the inflammation.
In the U.S. alone, doctors do more than 210,000 of these procedures every year. And new research from Finland shows they’re pretty much pointless.
This isn’t the first study to show these procedures don’t work. Earlier studies found the procedure doesn’t work any better than “placebo surgery.” In spite of that, the number of these surgeries performed has skyrocketed.
Think about that for a moment: Multiple studies show this procedure doesn’t offer real relief. And doctors keep cutting anyway.
The Finnish study followed 189 patients for two years. Patients who had fake surgery got just as much relief as those who went through the real thing.
Basically, this suggests you could just cut a patient’s skin, stitch it up, and they’d get just as much benefit as if you’d sliced and diced inside their shoulder.
And here’s the awful part: In spite of multiple studies showing this procedure doesn’t work, doctors still perform it routinely.
In spite of the fact physiotherapy works as well.
But at far less cost. And at no profit to surgeons. An anomaly? Hardly.
Pointless Heart Surgeries Abound
The New York Times reports the use of stents may be no more than an example of the placebo effect.
“The placebo effect” is the change in health status caused by an inert change. For example, the use of a sugar pill. Or – as in the study above – faux surgery.
In a 2007 study, involving nearly 2,300 patients with narrowed arteries, installing stents provided no more benefit than non-surgical therapy. There was virtually no difference in the results.
After years of arguments – during which cardiologists defended the use of stents – another trial took place.
The results? Patients merely sedated for 15 minutes performed just as well as those who’d had stents implanted. Which backed up the results of several studies completed in the interim.
Including a 2012 review that compared 8 heart studies. In this study, stents offered no benefit beyond other therapies.
This study wasn’t an outlier, either.
Unnecessary Knee Surgery
A 2014 New York Times (NYT) article looked at treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.
The article said minimally invasive surgery was common at the turn of the century. But, in 2002, a study of 180 patients showed this approach is no more effective than placebo surgery.
In this study, some patients had an incision made to look like they’d had surgery. But this “sham” surgery was just as effective as the actual surgery.
That year, this pointless surgery generated $3 billion in revenue. And doctors continued to perform the procedure.
The NYT also reports the number of arthroscopic surgeries for meniscus (cartilage) tears grew as surgeries for knee OA began to drop.
Doctors performed 700,000 of these surgeries – worth $4 billion – in the U.S. in the mid-2000s. But by 2012, these surgeries were also shown to be no more effective than a placebo.
The NYT article also pointed to a 2014 review showing pointless surgeries were remarkably common. Of the 53 studies researchers reviewed, more than half revealed no benefit from the actual surgery.
When Surgery Is Involved, Let the Buyer Beware
Obviously, not all surgery is unnecessary. In fact, many surgeries save lives.
On the other hand, many surgeries appear to be more about making money than providing genuine relief.
And it’s those cases we should look at. The Guardian notes studies that question knee surgeries… spine procedures… gallstone and angina procedures… and more.
“More and more, it’s looking like a lot of surgeries have no benefit,” says Ian Harris, a professor of surgery at the University of New South Wales. “And as long as we keep doing them anyway – risk to patients aside – it just means that we are wasting a hell of a lot of money, and that doesn’t even touch the surgeries that we haven’t studied yet.”
Your bottom line? Don’t accept the need for surgery just because a doctor says so. If your condition allows, get a second – or even third – opinion.
In many cases, you may find surgery is just a fancy way to separate you from your wallet.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
Lehtinen, P., “Finnish study shows that most common shoulder operation is no more be no more beneficial than placebo surgery,” University of Helsinki. Jul 19, 2018.
Carroll, A.E., “Heart Stents Are Useless for Most Stable Patients. They’re Still Widely Used,” New York Times. Feb 12, 2018.
Carroll, A.E., “The Placebo Effect Doesn’t Apply Just to Pills,” New York Times. Oct 6, 2014.
Mohammadi, D., “When surgery is just a stitch-up,” The Guardian. Aug 20, 2017.
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