Hospitals have a tendency to use the most expensive equipment for tests, both because these medical devices tend to work well and also to justify the cost of obtaining the machine. But is it possible that equipment to diagnose illnesses and injuries can be too good?
One example is a CT angiography scan that looks for pulmonary embolism. It has been said that pulmonary embolism is one of the most commonly missed deadly diagnoses. A pulmonary embolism is a blockage of the artery leading to the lung, a fatal condition if not treated quickly. These modern CT scans are very good at finding blockages. And of course doctors want to avoid missing any diagnoses of pulmonary embolism, so they frequently use this method of detection rather than the old way of ventilation scanning.
However, the CT scan may be too good and lead to unnecessary treatments and surgeries, A new report written by lead author Dr. Renda Soylemez Wiener suggests that CT scans are overused and result in treatment that is unnecessary and dangerous.
According to the report, published in BMJ, diagnoses of pulmonary embolism increased by 80 percent eight years after the introduction of the new CT scan technique. However, deaths from pulminary embolisms have not decreased. This suggests that most of the scans are unnecessary. Yet in-hospital deaths for treatment have increased by over 4 percent.
Medication that thins the blood is generally used to treat pulmonary embolism. Yet this medication is the leading cause of death caused by drugs. Dr. David J. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University and was unaffiliated with the study, told The New York Times that about one-quarter of all CT scans for pulminary embolism – which add up to around 80 million per year – are unnecessary. He advizes patients to speak with their doctors whether the treatment is necessary.
Patients injured by unnecessary or missed diagnoses should contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss financial compensation.
Source: The New York Times, “CT Scan May Be Too Good at Finding Lung Problems, Study Finds,” Nicholas Bakalar, July 3, 2013