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When we get sick or injured, we trust healthcare professionals to provide sound medical treatment and care that is based on firm science. What we don’t expect and don’t want is to be treated with procedures that are ineffective or with medications that are useless and outdated.

Unfortunately, outdated medical health procedures and practices being used in healthcare facilities is more common than most of us would like to think. In fact, a recent analysis of over 3,000 studies found that nearly 400 established medical practices are still being used throughout the country despite being ineffective. The study, which was published in the open-access journal eLife, hopes to shine light on these ineffective practices so that they are discontinued, and patients are no longer put at risk.

What Was the Study and What Did it Find?

When a medical practice is determined to be no better than prior standards of care, or worse, it is taken out of practice by the medical community. This process is referred to as a ‘medical reversal,’ and it is determined by conducting randomized controlled trials (RCT’s) to test the efficacy of new treatments. RCT’s play an important role in not only eliminating wasteful spending in health care but protecting clients from dangerous and ineffective practices. Unfortunately, not all health procedures and practices are routinely subjected to RCT’s.

The lead author of the recent study, Diana Herrera-Perez, and her team looked at 15 years of RCT’s published in three leading medical journals, the Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. By analyzing nearly 3,000 articles they found nearly 400 medical reversals in a diverse range of medical practices.

The most common medical reversals were found in the following fields:

  • Cardiovascular disease (20%).
  • Preventative medicine (12%).
  • Critical care (11%).

Medication proved to be the most common intervention category among the medical reversals (33%), followed by procedures (20%) and vitamins and/or supplements (13%).

The researchers noted that one problem in the medical community is that once a practice is established it becomes difficult for healthcare providers to abandon its use. They hope the results of their study will inspire more research and studies to identify dangerous and outdated medical practices.

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