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Why doctors may recommend surgery you do not need

Many surgeries are necessary and can improve someone’s quality of life or even save their life. However, it does happen that doctors sometimes recommend unnecessary surgeries.

For example, a doctor might say that you need surgery for a pacemaker when all you need is blood pressure medication. In fact, if you see more than one doctor to get second or third opinions, you could be dealing with a bewildering array of options. So, what is going on if one doctor recommends surgery, but another doctor says you can get better without surgery?

Financial incentives

A doctor may press for surgery because he or she has a financial incentive for doing so. There is also the fact that a doctor might get paid more for performing a certain type of surgery rather than another kind. No surgery means no money, and a different surgery could mean less money.

Undertraining

Some doctors are not properly trained. Maybe they do not know about the wide range of treatment options that do not involve surgery, or they misdiagnose your condition.

Lack of consequences

Another reason your doctor might recommend surgery is that he or she knows there are unlikely to be serious repercussions if something happens. For example, many malpractice suits are settled without doctors having to admit to wrongdoing, and the government does not track unnecessary surgeries or the complications that can stem from them. The reality is that unnecessary surgeries are a serious and costly problem that affects people and the healthcare system in quite a few different ways.

Subjectivity

The treatment protocols for many conditions are laid out in largely black-and-white terms, so why does subjectivity come into play? It has to do with the perception of risk compared with the benefits. A tool such as a risk calculator could help doctors, surgeons and patients make better-informed decisions about whether a surgery is necessary or worthwhile.

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