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The 10 most useless operations

MagazineAugust 1998 (Vol. 9 Issue 5)The 10 most useless operations

Used to treat atherosclerosis, this treatment involves inserting a "balloon" in the arteries, then expanding it to clear the artery of fatty build up Research consistently shows that stenosis (narrowing of the artery) reoccurs within six months

Angioplasty

Used to treat atherosclerosis, this treatment involves inserting a "balloon" in the arteries, then expanding it to clear the artery of fatty build up Research consistently shows that stenosis (narrowing of the artery) reoccurs within six months. More than half of all angioplasties are unnecessary (WDDTY,vol 4 no 2 and vol 8 no 4).

Radical Mastectomy

A mutilating operation which involves removing the breast, much of the skin, the chest wall and the lymph nodes. Numerous studies have shown no benefit in terms of cancer recurrence over more conservative breast conserving measures (WDDTY vol 3 no 11).

Hernia

It's four times more dangerous to have one than to go without especially if you are over 65. Purported to strengthen ruptured muscles and ligaments, studies show the procedure actually weakens them. The recurrence rate is 20 per cent for first ops, 30 per cent for second ops and 50 per cent for third and subsequent ops (WDDTY,vol 5 no 7).

Hysterectomy

Common medical thinking says a woman doesn't need her uterus after she has had children, which ignores the part it continues to play in hormone regulation. Damning studies have shown that nearly 90 per cent of these operations are unnecessary and performed for spurious reasons such as fibroids, endometriosis and heavy periods (WDDTY vol 7 no 1).

Gall Bladder

Four out of five operations are unnecessary. Taking out the gall bladder is not a "cure", and if keyhole surgery is used it can actually aggravate the problem by injuring the bile duct or causing gall stones to "leak" into surrounding tissues. Gall bladder problems can be almost entirely solved through dietary changes (WDDTY, vol 7 no 10).

Grommets

Left alone, 75 per cent of cases of glue ear will resolve themselves within a year. Compare this to those who have grommets inserted. Five years on, more than 60 per cent of children will have had a repeat operation. The op also poses other risks, such as hardening or perforation of the ear drum and middle ear cysts (WDDTY, vol 8 no 7).

Surgery for back pain

Surgery only completely relieves back pain in around half of cases. Of the 200,000 to 400,000 Americans who have back surgery each year, 30,000 to 80,000 will come out with increased pain. Post surgical scarring is one major cause of increased pain (WDDTY, vol 4 no 8).

Prostate removal

Removing the prostate is supposed to stop the spread of cancer. Yet the medical evidence shows that this cancer rarely spreads to other areas, until you cut the patient open. According to autopsy reports, nearly a third of European men have prostate cancer, but only 1 per cent die of it (WDDTY, vol 6 no 4).

Thyroidectomy

Nearly a third of all cases of overactive thyroid will resolve themselves. With subtotal thyroidectomy, where only part of the thyroid is removed, only 30 per cent will have normal thyroid levels after eight years; 41 per cent will have a permanently underactive thyroid and 19 per cent will still be hyperthyroid (WDDTY, vol 7 no 7).

Blood Transfusion

Few guidelines exist as to the how's and when's of transfusions. Surveys show that an estimated one third to three quarters of those given blood are transfused inappropriately. Patients run the risk of contracting blood borne diseases such as hepatitis C (in 7-10 per cent of cases). Keeping fluid volume up with fluid replacments can work better than transfusion (WDDTY, vol 3 no 2).


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