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February 14th, 2012

‘Defensive Medicine’ Accounts for One-Quarter of All Orthopedic Testing

A new study to be issued Thursday by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons indicates that 1 of every 4 tests ordered by its members is medically unnnecessary but performed nonetheless to limit the potential for lawsuits down the road.

According to Outpatient Surgery online, the study, based on a survey of more than 1,200 physicians specializing in orthopedics, shows that such “defensive medicine” is practiced by 96% of of them.  

Beyond unnecessary and costly testing, the survey finds that upto 84% of orthopedic surgeons avoid high-risk patients or procedures to limit liability.  Closing a practice to become a consultant, ceasing to see patients in emergency rooms, and refusing to operate on patients with significant but unrelated health problems such as diabetes or heart problems are other means by which survey respondents say they practice defensive medicine.

“All across America, orthopedic surgeons are moving away from a standard of care and doing things out of fear of lawsuits,” said Manish Sethi, MD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and a co-author of the study. “This is a major issue that costs a lot of money, and no one’s done anything about it.”

Did you hear that, Congress?

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