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Many High-Tech Health Interventions Unnecessary and Wasted

February 15, 2011 | 39,709 views

Implantable Cardioverter DefibrillatorIn recent years, over 20 percent of patients who received an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD, a device that regulates heartbeats) were not actually good candidates for the device.

Researchers looked at more than 111,000 patients who received ICD implants. More than 25,000 did not meet evidence-based criteria for receiving the device -- and the risk of dying in the hospital is significantly higher for patients who receive an ICD but do not meet the criteria.

According to CNN:

"... ICDs often are recommended as a primary prevention tactic for patients who are at high risk for a cardiac arrest or life-threatening arrhythmia, but who have not yet suffered from these symptoms. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ... has issued a 'decision memo' stating that only people having certain serious heart conditions or cardiac histories are suitable candidates for ICDs."

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a device placed in your chest that uses electrical shocks to help control irregular heartbeat, including the type that can cause sudden cardiac death.

When used properly, the devices can and do save lives, but they are not without risks. The procedure to implant the ICD can lead to infection, vein damage or bleeding around your heart or through your heart valve. Allergic reactions to medications can also occur. In short, receiving an ICD is major surgery, and they should only be used when absolutely necessary …

Unfortunately, as with so many areas of modern medicine, a new study found ICDs are being used excessively and improperly -- and may ultimately be causing many patients more harm than good.

Over 20 Percent of Implantable Defibrillators May be Unnecessary and Harmful

Research from Duke University revealed that more than 20 percent of people who received an ICD between 2006 and 2009 were not good candidates for the device.

Many physicians recommend ICDs for people who are at high risk of cardiac arrest or life-threatening arrhythmia, even if they haven't had prior symptoms. But a new memo from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, described that only people with certain specific heart conditions should be given the devices.

The memo also details a long list of other qualifications that must be met before a person is deemed a good candidate for ICD.

What happens when someone who did not meet evidence-based criteria for receiving the device received an ICD anyway?

Their risk of dying in the hospital was significantly higher than those who were good candidates, and one out of 121 experienced complications from the implant, the new study found.

So why are so many patients being implanted with defibrillators even when there's no solid evidence that they will help, and now new research suggests the procedure itself could increase death risk and complications in poor candidates?

Dr. Sana Al-Khatib of Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., lead author of the study, told USA Today:

"It's lack of knowledge. It's ignorance. It's not keeping track of the guidelines. And we may have some physicians who don't agree with the guidelines or don't think the guidelines apply to their patients."

In reality, there are likely only a select few who will truly benefit from an ICD to reduce sudden death risk. However, everyone should be proactive about reducing this risk, as the most common "symptom" of heart disease is actually sudden death. To reduce your risk of sudden death without an ICD or other "high-tech" intervention, you can read my top tips.

When the Latest Technology Does Not Equal Better Medical Care …

There are many instances where high-tech medical procedures are not always your best solution from a health and healing standpoint. For instance:

  • Radiation-Based Diagnostic Scans (CT scans, etc.)

    More than 70 million CT scans per year are now performed in the United States, including at least 4 million on children. This is up from just 3 million in 1980.

    While high-tech imaging can be beneficial in certain cases, it must be used SPARINGLY because it exposes your body to dangerous radiation that is proven to cause cancer. According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, CT scans alone will cause nearly 30,000 unnecessary cancer cases (about 2 percent of cancer cases), which will lead to about 14,500 deaths.

    A New England Journal of Medicine study from 2007 also estimated that overuse of diagnostic CT scans may cause up to 3 million excess cancers over the next 20 to 30 years. Unfortunately, CT scans continue to be widely overused, including in children, when in most cases MRIs can provide similar imaging results and at this time appear to be far safer.

  • Prescription Drugs

    Medications are often touted as among the latest innovations in modern medicine, but taking drugs is clearly not the route to optimal health that the modern medical system would have you believe it is.

    More than 700,000 people visit U.S. emergency rooms each year as a result of adverse drug reactions. And, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adverse drug reactions from drugs that are properly prescribed and properly administered cause about 106,000 deaths per year, making prescription drugs the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S.

    Compare this to the death toll from illegal drugs -- which is about 10,000 per year -- and you begin to see the magnitude of the problem that the pharmaceutical industry is propagating.

    Keep in mind, too, that many drugs are designed to create life-long dependency.

    For instance, acid-reducing medications actually induce acid-related symptoms like heartburn and acid regurgitation once treatment is withdrawn. Headache drugs can also cause "medication overuse headaches" leading you to seek another drug to relieve the pain caused by the first one.

    It's all too common to have to take one or more additional drugs solely to treat side effects caused by your initial drug treatment, so the more you can stay away from this warped system, the better.

  • Mammography

    Mammograms are often touted as a "life-saving" form of cancer screening, responsible for reducing breast cancer death rates by 15-25 percent. But this reported benefit is based on outdated studies done decades ago …

    The New England Journal of Medicine published the first recent study to look at the effectiveness of mammograms in years and revealed that mammograms may have only reduced the cancer death rate by 2 percent -- an amount so small it may as well be zero.

    If mammograms were completely safe and capable of reducing your cancer death risk even a small amount, you might be able to make an argument for their use. But mammograms are not only ineffective … they're unsafe as well, as you can read about the risks in-depth here.

The Most Overused Medical Tests and Treatments …

In 2007, Consumer Reports published a list of the 10 most overused medical tests and treatments, and not much has changed since then. Their list includes not only implanted defibrillators as discussed above, but also:

  1. Back surgery
  2. Heartburn surgery
  3. Prostate treatments
  4. Implanted defibrillators
  5. Coronary stents
  6. C-sections
  7. Whole body screens
  8. High-tech angiography
  9. Mammography
  10. Virtual colonoscopy

Now, if you're like most people, when you're faced with an ailment or disease and your physician "sells" you on a particular surgical procedure or drug treatment, you probably expect it to solve your problem, improve your health, or, at the very least, live up to its advertised ideals.

But in the United States this is, sadly, expecting too much. American medical care is the most expensive in the world, and for this "price" Americans get:

So please understand that if you live in the United States, your health is not safe in the hands of the conventional medical system. The current medical paradigm, with its focus on a drug, surgery or other high-tech solution for every symptom, actually creates a mind-boggling amount of needless suffering and premature death.

Low-Tech Solutions to Stay Well

There are cases when modern medicine and new technology save lives, and you should take advantage of these options when they're truly warranted -- which typically is only after you're already very sick or injured. But the latest technology is NOT what will give you energy, vitality and well-being, nor will it help you to prevent the chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes that are currently plaguing the nation.

In short, high-tech solutions will not keep you well (and in some cases may make you worse) … the very low-tech and very simple strategies below, however, will:

Remember, relying on high-tech medical interventions and drugs will not give you the healthy body and mind you desire. You can use modern medicine's solutions as Band-Aids, temporarily suspending a symptom or two, but there will be side effects … Your body will try to compensate and heal, but the more medical interventions you throw at your system, the more off-kilter your body gets and the more ill you ultimately become.

What WILL give you optimal health requires just a bit of work on your part -- to eat well, exercise, and relieve stress -- in short all of the things I detail, for free, on the tens of thousands of pages available on my site.

Please also take advantage of the search feature located at the top of this page to learn even more strategies you can use to support your body's innate ability to stay well and heal, naturally.


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