5 Surgeries That Make Hospitals Rich But Are Often Unnecessary

Medical professionals like doctors, surgeons, nurses, and emergency personnel are the true heroes of the modern world, more so than political leaders, priests, and celebs, but their contributions often go unrecognized. At the same time, there is also a seedy and dark side to the noble profession.

Doctors are not immune to the consumerism of modern society and like most humans, the ethics of surgeons can be corrupted at times. This has given rise to an unusual situation in which surgeons perform innumerable surgeries and patients receive high quality and expensive medical care, but it’s treatment that they often don’t really require. In some cases, this problem can be compounded by doctors with inexperience or due to plain incompetence. Here are some surgeries that are often recommended even in situations where they are not medically justified.

Surgeries You Should Be Cautious About Undergoing

1. Knee Surgery

“Arthroscopic knee surgery for osteoarthritis has been shown to be of no benefit to patients, while studies have shown that physical therapy can be just as effective as routinely prescribed surgical procedures for the knees”

Knee replacement and arthroscopic knee surgery are among the most commonly prescribed surgeries in India, when completely unnecessary. Researchers have found that in cases where patients are provided with complete information on joint replacement and alternative procedures, the numbers opting for knee replacement reduced by 38 percent. More disturbing is the fact that arthroscopic knee surgery for osteoarthritis has been shown to be no more effective than a placebo surgery! In other words, it does not bring about any improvement. Other studies have also shown that physical therapy can be just as effective as surgical procedures, but costs much less and poses almost no risk.

2. Cesarean Section

“WHO guidelines state that Cesarean delivery rates should be no higher than 10 percent, yet the rates are rising rapidly across India, even going as high as 80 percent in some districts of Andhra Pradesh!”

World Health Organization guidelines clearly state that there is no justification for countries having Cesarean delivery rates of higher than 10 percent. While India’s rate was 8.5 percent just 6 years ago, the figure is quickly rising, reaching 41 percent in Kerala, 51 percent in Haryana, and 58 percent in Tamil Nadu. Researchers also found that the rate was as high as 80 percent in some districts of Andhra Pradesh! The higher rates in southern states may be attributed to the higher density of private medical schools, making the surgery highly lucrative.

3. Angioplasty & Stents


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“This expensive procedure can be life saving in situations, but in other cases is unnecessary, with studies showing it to be no more effective than conventional treatments that are less invasive and a lot cheaper”

An angioplasty surgery is performed to open up a blocked or severely narrowed artery, whether because of atherosclerosis or blockages. The procedure is potentially lifesaving in certain situations, such as during a heart attack, when it can help restore blood supply and reduce damage to the heart. Like many other complex procedures, an angioplasty can cost a fortune, which also makes it highly profitable for surgeons and hospitals. This has led to a spurt in the number of angioplasties being performed even in cases where patients have not suffered a heart attack. In such cases, angioplasty is actually deemed medically unnecessary and several studies have shown that it offers no benefit, when compared to other conventional treatments that are less invasive.

4. Spinal Fusion Back Surgery

“Surgeons often recommend spinal fusion surgery because it is one of the most expensive procedures, but the truth is it has a success rate of just 25 percent”

If you do suffer from lower back pain, you would be well aware of the difficulties in getting a good diagnosis or treatment that is effective. While you will have to undergo a bevy of tests that yield no conclusive results, you may also have to contend with unscrupulous surgeons who are out to make a buck. Surgeons often recommend spinal fusion surgery because it is one of the most expensive procedures, but the truth is it has a success rate of just 25 percent. A paper published in the journal Surgical Neurology International found that over 17 percent of all patients who were advised to go in for spinal surgery, did not really need the procedure!

5. Hysterectomy

“A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 70 percent of performed hysterectomies are unnecessary, and there have been several instances where surgeons have even performed the procedure without receiving prior consent!”

A hysterectomy, which is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus , may be necessary in the treatment of certain types of cancer and infections. Unfortunately, surgeons often recommend and practice the procedure without adequate evaluation and without really trying alternative methods of treatment. In some cases, surgeons have even failed to inform the patient about the risks or have performed the procedure without receiving prior consent. A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that in 70 percent of the cases, the procedure was not really needed.

While this information may fill you with distrust and disdain for the medical profession, don’t be so quick to write off all doctors. There are still plenty of great surgeons and doctors out there, many of whom have dedicated their lives to the betterment of others, rather than to padding their wallets. Visit your nearest social service center or NGO, and you’ll find proof of this – many doctors volunteer and provide free or subsidized medical care for those in need, and some go well beyond the call of duty.

That said, it’s important for you have your eyes open before you go in for expensive and risky medical procedure. If you find yourself in a situation where a surgeon recommends these procedures, don’t hesitate to seek a second or third opinion, and always consult surgeons with a good reputation.

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March 1, 2018

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