WASHINGTON - Don't be afraid to question your doctor and ask, "Do I really need that?"
That's the advice from leading medical groups who came up dozens of tests and treatments that physicians too often prescribe when they shouldn't.
No worrisome stroke signs? Then don't screen for a clogged neck artery, family physicians say. It could lead to risky surgery for a blockage too small to matter.
Don't routinely try heartburn medicine for infants with reflux, pediatric hospitalists say. It hasn't been proven to work in babies, and can cause side effects.
Don't try feeding tubes in people with advanced dementia, say the hospice providers. Helping them eat is a better option.
These are examples of potentially needless care that not only can waste money and time, but sometimes can harm, says the warning being issued today by medical specialty groups representing 350,000 doctors.
The list is aimed at doctors and includes references to published studies. Some other examples:
• Don't use opioid painkillers for migraines except as a last resort, say neurologists. There are migraine-specific drugs available without the addictive risk of narcotics. Frequent use of opioids actually can worsen migraines.
• Just because a pregnant woman misses her due date, don't race to induce labor if mom and baby are doing fine, obstetricians say. Inducing before the cervix is ready often fails, leading to an unneeded C-section.
• Don't automatically give a child a CT scan after a minor head injury, say pediatricians. Clinical observation first could help some who don't really need a CT avoid it.
• And don't leave an implanted defibrillator turned on when a patient is near death, say hospice providers. This technology saves lives by guarding against an irregular heartbeat. But if someone is dying of something else, or is in the terminal stages of heart disease, it can issue repeated painful shocks, to no avail.
On the Web
See an extensive list of sometimes overused health tests at: choosingwisely.org