The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in the United Kingdom has recently drawn up a list of over 40 medical treatments that bring little or no benefit for patients and yet are regularly prescribed by many doctors.
The Academy says that patients should ask more questions about procedures prescribed and seek a second or third opinion before opting for the treatment. Among the questions that patients should ask when seeking treatment are: Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure? What are the risks or downsides? What are the possible side-effects? Are there simpler, safer options? What will happen if I do nothing?
As part of an initiative to reduce the number of unnecessary medical treatments, the Academy asked medical experts from 11 different specialties to identify five treatments or procedures commonly used in their field that were not always necessary or valuable.
Tap water is just as good for cleaning cuts and grazes as saline solution
Electronic monitoring of a baby's heart is only needed during labor if the mother has a higher-than-normal risk of complications
Small wrist fractures in children do not normally need a plaster cast, and will heal just as quickly with a removable splint
Children with bronchiolitis, or breathing problems, usually get better without treatment
For children with chronic constipation changes to diet and lifestyle should be considered first to relieve the symptoms, rather than resorting to medicines.
Women over 45 do not need a blood test to diagnose the menopause.
Aspirin is not recommended as a way of reducing the chances of pregnant women developing blood clots.
X-rays are of no real help to those with lower back pain.
Routine screening for prostate conditions using a test known as a Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA test, does not lead to longer life and can bring unnecessary anxiety.
Most patients do not need routine preoperative tests before minor or intermediate surgery.
Chemotherapy may be used to relieve symptoms of terminal cancer but it cannot cure the disease and may well bring further distress in the final months of life.
After treatment for cancer, the use of routine scanning should only be used where this is beneficial to the patient.
When patients are particularly frail or in their last year of life, discuss decreasing the number of medicines to only those used for control of symptoms.