Why medically unnecessary surgeries still happen

Before a drug can be marketed, it goes through a rigorous process of testing and must receive a certified stamp of approval by the FDA. Surgeries, however, aren't scrutinized to the same degree, according to an Upshot article in the New York Times.

Numerous studies suggest physicians continue to advocate for surgical procedures despite the lack of evidence suggesting more effective options for patients.

The latest controversy regarding unnecessary medical procedures is surgery for a torn meniscus.

According to the report, nearly 400,000 middle-aged and older Americans undergo meniscus surgery. Numerous clinical trials and MRI scans revealed patients who experience a torn meniscus don't experience any pain. Those who said they did tended to have osteoarthritis, according to the report.

Various other studies similarly concluded that meniscus surgery offers no additional benefits regular exercise could not.

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic physician David Kallmes, MD, said patients and physicians experience a placebo effect that lead them to believe a surgical procedure is successful and beneficial for patients, according to the report.

Is it up to the patients, then, to research a procedure and decide for themselves if it's worth having? Should physicians even list it as an option for ailments where surgery has proven to be ineffective?

Gordon H. Guyatt, MD, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at McMasterUniversity in Ontario, Canada said it depends on how the choice is framed, but patients should be informed of how the surgery faired during randomized clinical trials before making their decision, according to the report.

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