The American Board of Internal Medicine and 9 other major medical specialty groups have identified 45 common tests and procedures that are overused (see WSJ blog).  Most diagnosis (80% or more) comes from careful history taking or physical exam (10 – 15%), not from expensive tests and imaging studies.  These medical societies are counseling physicians to stop ordering tests indiscriminately.   These frequently unnecessary tests and procedures are often costly, wasteful, and may unnecessarily place consumers in danger from side effects, radiation exposure, or complications.

Here are a few of the 45 common tests, procedures, and treatments that the physician organizations are urging physicians to perform  less frequently:

MRI rarely needed for back pain

  • Routine EKGs during physicals
  • X-rays and MRIs for back pain
  • Antibiotics for mild sinusitis
  • Routine stress cardiac imaging in asymptomatic patients
  • Imaging scans for simple headaches
  • Bone density scans before age 65 without risk factors
  • Pap smears < age 21 or after hysterectomy without cancer

Go to the Choosing Wisely website to learn more about the 45 common tests and procedures that you should think twice before undergoing.  If your doctor recommends one of these tests, ask your doctor about potential benefits and harms and if the test is really needed.

Author: Jim Bailey