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June 12, 2019

Nearly 400 medical practices rendered ineffective by large analysis of past research

Researchers hope their findings will spur a halt to the practices

Prevention Medical Research
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A number of medical practices have been reviewed and found to be not worthwhile.

There are certain aspects of health care that we, as lay people, tend to question but are generally brushed off as “protocol.”

A new study that analyzed more than 3,000 past pieces of research from the top three medical journals extrapolated an estimated 400 “established medical practices” that are actually ineffective.

Published Tuesday in the journal eLife, researchers at the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University hope their findings will spur what is called “medical reversals,” the practice of ceasing ineffective practices.

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The analysis, which primarily included people in high-income countries, identified 396 practices requiring medical reversals, according to the study. It said 20 percent of reversals pertained to cardiovascular disease; 12 percent were public health and preventative medicine; and 11 percent were related to critical care. Medications accounted for 33 percent of reversals, 20 percent involved produced and 13 percent included vitamins or supplements.

According to

Some reversals cited include the immediate delivery of babies following preterm prelabor rupture of the membranes after 34 weeks of pregnancy but before 37 weeks are complete, to reduce newborn sepsis. Others include the universal use of protective gowns and gloves to reduce the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in ICUs; mammography every 1-2 years after the age of 40 (not recommended until 50 years); the use of compression stockings to prevent clots in the leg veins after surgery; wearable technology for weight loss; and hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women’s health. None of these are now recommended.

There are, of course, some limitations of this study, namely that only three journals — the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine — were analyzed. This means, according to researchers, that the findings may not be applicable across all medical fields or even journals.

"Taken together, we hope our findings will help push medical professionals to evaluate their own practices critically and demand high-quality research before adopting a new practice in future, especially for those that are more expensive and/or aggressive than the current standard of care," said co-lead author Alyson Haslam, Ph.D.

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