Live

Watch CBSN Live

9 common medical procedures you may not need

Skip it. Full-body computed-tomography (CT) scans, which can cost $1,000, have been touted as a way to detect early signs of cancer and heart disease. But if you're healthy, they're of no proven benefit. The American College of Radiology warns that they can lead to costly and potentially risky follow-up exams to check out harmless abnormalities that otherwise would have gone undetected. And then there's the risk of radiation. "The average radiation dose from medical imaging has increased more than six-fold over the last 30 years, with CT scans being the largest contributor," says Dr. David J. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University. "We've found that full body CT scans expose patients to far more radiation than conventional plain film X-rays and consequently a higher lifetime risk of cancer deaths, about one in 1,250 for a 45-year-old adult and one in 1,700 for a 65-year-old adult," he said. istockphoto

patient, doctor, nutritionist, talking, medical, stock, 4x3

Are medical tests the best way to make sense of odd symptoms or to catch unsuspected illnesses? Not always.

Doctors from nine U.S. medical societies are warning patients and fellow physicians that many common medical tests are actually unnecessary - and may do more harm than good. The tests are also driving up the country's already skyrocketing health care costs.

The medical societies, representing 374,000 physicians, launched an initiative called Choosing Wisely, listing a total of 45 procedures that patients should question before having done.

Keep clicking to see 9 common medical procedures that patients should question...

9 common medical procedures you may not need

Skip it. Full-body computed-tomography (CT) scans, which can cost $1,000, have been touted as a way to detect early signs of cancer and heart disease. But if you're healthy, they're of no proven benefit. The American College of Radiology warns that they can lead to costly and potentially risky follow-up exams to check out harmless abnormalities that otherwise would have gone undetected. And then there's the risk of radiation. "The average radiation dose from medical imaging has increased more than six-fold over the last 30 years, with CT scans being the largest contributor," says Dr. David J. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University. "We've found that full body CT scans expose patients to far more radiation than conventional plain film X-rays and consequently a higher lifetime risk of cancer deaths, about one in 1,250 for a 45-year-old adult and one in 1,700 for a 65-year-old adult," he said. istockphoto

Sinus CT scans or antibiotics

Acute rhinosinusitis, or a sinus infection, is a common condition in which the areas surrounding nasal passages become inflamed. It's generally diagnosed clinically and does not require a sinus CT scan or other imaging, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Antibiotics are also not recommended for patients with mild sinusitis, especially not before seven days of experiencing symptoms.

9 common medical procedures you may not need

man in white shirt and jeans holding lower back in pain istockphoto

Imaging for low back pain

man in white shirt and jeans holding lower back in painLow back pain is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. But within the first six weeks of pain, imaging is unnecessary - unless red flags such as serious underlying conditions or abnormal functioning involving the brain and nerves are present.

9 common medical procedures you may not need

istockphoto

Osteoporosis screenings under age 65

bones, spinal cord, spine, bone, vertebrae, stock, 4x3Bone density tests, or DEXA, used to screen for osteoporosis, are not cost effective for younger, low-risk patients. Only women above age 65 and men above age 70 should be screened with these tests.


9 common medical procedures you may not need

Germ-filled droplets can fly through the air, too, so if someone within six feet of you is coughing or sneezing, turn your head away for about 10 seconds while the air clears, Dr. Fryhofer advises, and (if you're in public, like in a cafe or on a bus or train) change seats as soon as you can. And do your part to prevent the spread of germs: If you do get sick, sneeze into your sleeve, toss tissues immediately, and - if possible - stay home until you're better. MORE FROM HEALTH.COM: 5 Myths about the Common Cold istockphoto

Unconfirmed diagnostic tests for allergies

sneeze, elbow, woman, istockphoto, germs, 4x3Some allergy tests, such as immunoglobulin G, a type of blood test, are unproven and can lead to inappropriate diagnosis and treatment. Patients should rely on confirmed blood tests (the IgE test) and skin allergy test for diagnosis.


9 common medical procedures you may not need

The American Heart Association has released guidelines for safe sex after having a heart attack. Erica Hill and Gayle King speak with Dr. Jon Lapook about those guidelines.

Annual cardiac tests for low-risk patients with no symptoms 

Safe sex after heart attackPeople at low risk for heart problems don't need annual cardiac imaging or electrocardiograms, according to the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology.

9 common medical procedures you may not need

Doctor viewing MRI scan of brain iStockphoto

Brain imaging after fainting or for an uncomplicated headache 

Brain imaging is a useful way to pinpoint some mysterious problems - but it's not always the best option for uncomplicated headaches or after fainting. Those with headaches but without any risk factors for structural disease are unlikely to find successful treatment through brain imaging.

After fainting, some patients are told to undergo brain imaging as well - but according to the American College of Physicians, if the patient has no evidence of seizure or other neurological symptoms, brain scans are unlikely to help.

9 common medical procedures you may not need

colonoscopy, colon cancer, stock, 4x3 istockphoto

Colonoscopy more than once every 10 years


colonoscopy, colon cancer, stock, 4x3A colonoscopy is recommended once every 10 years in patients ages 50 and older. Studies show the risk for cancer is low after a high-quality colonoscopy finds no cancer for 10 years. For those who have had one or two small polyps, a colonoscopy is recommended once every five years.

9 common medical procedures you may not need

kidneys istockphoto

Routine cancer screenings in dialysis patients 

Dialysis patients (with kidney failure) who have limited life expectancies but no signs or symptoms of cancer do not need to get routine cancer screening tests, according to the American Society of Nephrology. The tests have not been found to improve survival in these patients, and can cause false positives, unnecessary stress, and overtreatment.

9 common medical procedures you may not need

A typical chest X-ray delivers about 10 millirems. An X-ray of the hips might deliver eight times as much. That's because the bones are bigger and so require more radiation to produce good images.Again, its all far more than an airport scanner. istockphoto

Chest x-rays before minor surgery

Patients without symptoms or heart and lung problems do not need to undergo standard chest x-rays before surgery. They are unlikely to cause any changes in management and treatment, according to the American College of Physicians.