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Reasons to think twice before going under the knife

AARP is doing a good job at pointing out that 4 surgical procedures are over-performed for a variety of reasons, with questionable long-term outcomes and even may cause more harm than good.

Karen Cheney of AARP authored the article in the AARP Magazine, July/August issue in 2011. Since then, the numbers of these surgeries have continued to increase. In fact, these four surgical procedures have been studied by researchers and published for all interested parties to consider.

My point is: “These studies are not new”! That got me thinking…why does it take so long (If ever) for the medical profession or regulatory authorities to catch on? These procedures are having a devastating impact on peoples’ lives, not to mention the cost of continued care (drugs and additional surgeries) that result from these procedures.

First, keep in mind that the practice of medicine is regulated by each state, not the federal government. Each state has a medical board that has been authorized by state law to protect the public. This is done by these boards by licensing requirements, continuing education requirements and paying attention to complaints by consumers and medical colleagues. While this system is good in many respects, it falls short of insuring that physicians are paying attention and adopting to new information and science as it’s studied and published. Of course any regulatory agency can only do so much, so it becomes necessary for consumers to do their own research and due diligence to determine if the procedure recommended by their physician is the right way to go.

Wondering what the four are?

Stents for Stable Angina:

Stents are tiny mesh tubes that are used to prop open arteries carrying blood to the heart. If a patient is having a heart attack, a stent can be a lifesaver. However, studies shows that close to 500,000 are implanted each year for stable chest pain and is not better than preventing a heart attack or prolonging survival than simple lifestyle changes and exercise.

Complex Spinal Fusion for Stenosis:

This procedure involves fusing two or more vertebrae together and creating more space for the exiting spinal nerve. Studies show that the frequency of this procedure has increased an astounding 1,400 percent between 2002 and 2007 and does not appear to be slowing down. The risks are very significant as those who underwent the procedure were nearly three times more likely to suffer a life threatening complication. Other studies point out that most patients experience no more relief from chronic back pain than those who had physical and behavior therapy.

Hysterectomy for Uterine Fibroids:

More than 600,000 American women undergo hysterectomies each year. While this is critical if the patient has uterine cancer (about 10%), most patients undergo the procedure for quality of life issues such as heavy bleeding or pain caused by benign uterine fibroids. Complications are common and in fact 60% of these women will suffer from incontinence by the age of 60 according to recent study. If the ovaries are removed as well, the patient goes into instant menopause. Alternatives should be considered, the least invasive first. Some studies show that these uterine fibroids may be caused by hormone imbalances and are relatively easy to test for.

Knee Arthroscopy for Osteoarthritis:

For more than 10 years, studies have shown that this procedure is no more effective than physical therapy. The surgery is most commonly indicated for a torn meniscus. The procedure is performed by a surgeon who places a tiny camera in the knee, and with small instruments cut out and trim the tear. In fact, more recent studies show that patients frequently are worse off as they undergo an arthritic healing response.

I decided to write this article because I see so much needless suffering as a result of people and their doctors not being aware that far less invasive therapies are available and are safer and in many cases more effective than the surgical outcomes. I recognize that many of the more advanced procedures such as our platelet and stem cell therapies are not covered by insurance plans and many folks just don’t have the funds. However, as I have pointed out in previous blogs, if one considers the entire impact of a joint replacement such as recovery time, visits to PT and doctors, drugs for pain or blood thinners and co-pays, the cost is frequently much higher.

So, my advice to you…before undergoing any surgical procedure, do your homework. The internet is full of information. Take the time to get a second opinion from a physician who treats the condition without being a surgeon. Ask your cardiologist, gynecologist, endocrinologist, orthopedist, what they know about these newer procedures. Don’t accept an off-the-cuff dismissal…become an informed consumer so you can ask good questions.

Our specialists at Health Link Medical Center addresses hormone balancing issues using the SottoPelle Therapy System and orthopedic issues using the advanced procedures we provide from Regenexx. As always, our patient coordinators are at your service and will always address your questions and concerns.