Young Doctors’ Overreliance On CT Scans

27vergheseimg-articleInline.jpgIn a New York Times op-ed piece published last week, entitled “Treat the Patient, Not the CT Scan,” Dr. Abraham Verghese takes young doctors to task for their overreliance on sophisticated medical imaging procedures, such as CT scans.
Dr. Verghese hits on some points about the use of CT scans that are familiar to readers of this blog – the extremely high amounts of radiation that patients are exposed to by medical imaging (it now accounts for more than 50 percent of the radiation that Americans are exposed to) and the high price tag of such procedures (a huge driver of our health care costs, given how much cutting-edge medical imaging is overused).
But Dr. Verghese really hones in a point that would have Drs. Jesse Pines and Zachary Meisel (figures whom we’ve previously blogged about here) nodding in agreement: the overuse of medical imaging is both a cause of, and effect of, a deterioration in young doctors’ basic clinical skills.
Dr. Verghese relates the story of a woman who was admitted to the Emergency Room with seizures and breathing difficulties. Doctors instantly ordered a CT scan of her chest. It revealed she had massive breast tumors and the breast cancer had spread and caused secondary cancers.
Although the CT scan detected the cancer, Dr. Verghese believes that the overuse of CT scans may have led to its becoming so advanced without any medical intervention. Dr. Verghese writes:

In retrospect, though, her cancer should have been discovered long before the radiologist found it; before the emergency, the patient had been seen several times and at different places, for symptoms that were probably related to the cancer. I got to see the CT scan: the tumor masses in each breast were likely visible to the naked eye — and certainly to the hand. Yet they had never been noted.

Maybe instead of a conversation about capping damages in medical malpractice cases, we should be having a conversation about our overreliance on medical imaging, the massive amounts of radiation we are absorbing as a result of that overreliance and the cost of that overreliance – both in terms of health care quality and in dollars.

This blog in maintained by the Boston medical malpractice lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C. It does not offer legal advice, nor should you construe it as offering legal advice on a medical malpractice claim that you should have.