Ten to 20 percent of specialized surgeries performed in the United States are unnecessary according to a USA Today article this week. Most of the time this happens because the doctor failed to recognize that a procedure could be avoided. But other times, physicians are purposely calling for expensive procedures to bilk insurers for higher bills.

But it’s not only insurance companies who are harmed by these unnecessary surgeries, it’s the patients themselves. Jonathan Steilly is an example of one of the horror stories involving unnecessary surgery. He was 22 years old with a promising baseball career when he had a fainting spell. The doctor told him he needed a pacemaker if he wanted to live to see 30. He made a quick decision to have the surgery, ending his athletic career. Afterwards his doctor was investigated by authorities for unnecessary surgeries and Jonathan sought second opinions. It turns out he only needed medication and could likely have continued his life normally had he controlled his blood pressure. Doctors have since turned off his pacemaker even though it cannot be removed. The doctor who installed it is in jail.

The amount of times things go wrong during surgery is nowhere near the amount of times the surgery itself was unnecessary, USA Today claimed in its analysis of the U.S. government's National Practitioner Data Bank public use file. In an era when many hospitals are required to report every infection and surgical error, neither the federal government nor the states track unnecessary surgeries or their consequences.

The paper suggested it was vital to get second opinions before undergoing surgery. The article identified the following surgeries as often being unnecessary: cardiac angioplasty, installation of stents or pacemakers, spinal fusion, knee and hip replacement, colonoscopy, cesarean and hysterectomy. If you have learned later that surgery was unnecessary and your quality of life has diminished as a result of the surgery, or if you have had something go wrong with any of these surgeries, and these matters happened in New York, then I encourage you to pick up the phone and call me with your legal questions.

I answer questions like yours every day and I welcome your call. You can reach me at 516-487-8207 or by email at [email protected].

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer