Top 10 overused medical tests: list includes heart, women's health, and wellness screenings


The overuse of many common preventive tests is adding to the ballooning costs of healthcare and should be limited, according to a recent study.

The overuse of many common preventive tests is part of the ballooning costs of healthcare and should be limited, according to a recent study by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation in conjunction with AARP and the Choosing Wisely campaign.

After surveying more than 50 medical societies, physicians reported that the named screening tests often lead to a sleuth of unnecessary treatments and procedures. For example, the survey names nuclear stress tests after heart procedures as the top overused medical test, citing that the exposure to radiation and other invasive follow-up procedures can override heart healthy practices such as controlling blood pressure through diet and exercise.

Other unnecessary tests include the yearly Pap tests to diagnose the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer in women, as a Federal Drug Administration panel recently suggested that a new test that more accurately detects HPV be used more frequently than the 60-year-old Pap test.

The survey also named yearly wellness visits as a waste of healthcare dollars. “A healthy 52-year-old does not need to see the doctor once a year," says Jeremy Sussman, MD, MS, an internist who was on the Society of General Internal Medicine task force for making the Choosing Wisely recommendation. Instead, Sussman says that patients should see physicians when problems arise, not just as the calendar dictates.

The list is released as the Affordable Care Act aims to add 7 million adults to the healthcare system this year, emphasizing preventive healthcare through annual wellness screenings, which are mandated to be available through health insurance plans. Unnecessary medical testing and services costs $225 billion each year, according to Rosemary Gibson, coauthor of the book, The Treatment Trap.

Next: See complete list of Top 10 Medical Tests to Avoid



Top 10 Medical Tests to Avoid:

  • Nuclear stress tests, and other imaging tests after having heart procedures

  • Yearly electrocardiogram or exercise stress test

  • PSA test for prostate cancer

  • PET scan to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease

  • X-ray, CT scan or MRI for lower back pain

  • Yearly Pap tests

  • Bone density scan for women before age 65 and men before age 70

  • Follow-up ultrasounds for small ovarian cysts

  • Colonoscopy after age 75

  • Yearly physical
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