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Doctors Order Needless Tests, Reveals Study

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A new research study reveals that doctors needlessly order expensive imaging tests such as MRIs and CT scans. The Pennsylvania study suggests that about 20% of tests ordered by joint and bone specialists are because these doctors fear being sued.

The results of the study were reported this week at a conference of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Many patients think it is a good thing for their doctor to order plenty of tests, but this good feeling evaporates when they are given their medical bill. Besides increasing health care expenses, needless tests expose patients to radiation which accumulates to increase cancer risk.

An MRI scan might cost more than $1,000. And, CT scans emit large doses of radiation. Yet, doctors order these tests because of fear of getting sued if their diagnosis goes wrong. The study tracked tests ordered by 72 orthopedic doctors in Pennsylvania on more than 2,000 patients.

Doctors ticked a box if a test they ordered was for “defensive reasons”, i.e. for fear of being sued. Defensive imaging tests totaled 38% of MRIs, which accounted for 35% of patients’ expenses.

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