Adults with injured lungs are being subjected to procedures which are largely untested and unproven, according to an editorial in the British Medical Journal.
Extracorporeal gas exchange used to help those with damaged lungs to breathe has yet to be subjected to any rigorous testing.
"The benefits of costly, labour intensive, and complicated treatments to support injured lungs are unproved, yet randomized controlled trials are unlikely because doctors are unwilling to forgo treatment in control patients," said the report.
A similar reluctance to test the usefulness of the technique in newborn babies was manifested in the 1980s, says the editorial. "The problems of not doing trials simply accumulate," the editorial added. "Patients may be treated unnecessarily; optimum treatment may not become clear; resources may be diverted to ineffective treatments; and eventually a halt may be called to treatments that may be effective simply because hard evidence is lacking for their effectiveness," it concludes.