X-ray, Anyone?

Do you really need that extra test?


I was so happy to stumble across this article this morning.  Well-written and full of information with sources that can be independently researched, it questions the benefits of ‘over-testing’, states the reasons why x-rays and CT scans have become so common, gives an overview of the studies and dangers of receiving to much radiation and provides some common sense advice regarding what to ask your doctor when tests are recommended.

Doesn’t blindly accuse western medicine of incompetence, (yes, I am biased against some tenets of western medicine practitioners, but they do have their good points!) The author, while obviously concerned about the overuse of some radiation-based tests and the dangers of higher than necessary radiation dosages, didn’t, IMHO, give in to unrestrained bias.

According to AP writer, Marilyn Marchione, doctors have become more dependent upon x-rays and CT scans, due to accuracy and ease of use, fear of malpractice suits, time crunches, insurance chaos, patient pressure and in rural communities, lack of alternative resources.

What has been discovered is that many patients receive more tests than were needed.   And preliminary studies show radiation doses could be reduced by as much as 66% and still provide accurate images.

Having experienced pneumonia last fall, I have empirical evidence on the common use of chest x-rays.   Thinking I had the flu, I didn’t go to the doctor until rather late in the illness, thereby affording them the opportunity to be able to detect exactly what was wrong, just using their stethoscope.   However, the pain in the ribs, shoulder blades and sternum area never completely went away.   A chest x-ray and blood test last fall did not show any reason for the pain.

A recent trip to the Urgent care facility when the pain escalated again over the course of a week (rest and extra nourishment via herbs were not making any inroads), resulted in another chest x-ray and blood test, which told the doctor……..Absolutely Nothing, except that nothing is wrong.

It was suggested I go to larger facility 40 miles away and get a CT scan.   I asked what it would show that the x-ray hadn’t.   The answer given did not really provide any new information and under closer questioning, the provider was hard pressed to advise what the benefits of the additional test would be, as his examination had already ruled out several possibilities.

Had I not questioned and just blindly followed the advice given, I would have ended up with a long drive, an expensive scan, another radiation dose and for what?   Confirmation of what the first two tests had already indicated.

We’re all familiar with the saying, “the cure was a success, but the patient died from the treatment.”

Perhaps we should look closer at the consequences of excessive testing too.

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