Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More tests may not be better

Just a handful of studies I have collected recently showing that getting more tests done does not always translate into better outcomes, or even more accurate information. A trusting doctor-patient relationship and the application of a little science may be all you need to get a good assessment of your health.
  1. After accounting for traditional risk factors (smoking, obestity, etc.) 101 genetic markers of heart disease did not improve the detection of heart disease. (Paynter et al)
  2. Five different blood tests barely improved the ability to predict heart disease (Schnabel et al)
  3. Screening for lung cancer with annual chest X-rays did not increase the detection of cancer and did not reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer (Oken et al)
But more testing should be better right? In these cases, it turns out that using heart disease risk factors was a strong enough predictor that the extra genetic and blood tests did not make a difference. For lung cancer, chest x-rays just may not be sensitive enough to detect the cancers, or the earlier diagnosis may not actually impact the ultimate result and lifespan. 

1 comment:

  1. But more testing does reduce the patients chance of success at litigation if they sue after an adverse outcome. I defend doctors and hospitals as a lawyer and the theory that the right test wasnt ordered is a popular one with plaintiffs attorneys.