Techno “Values” (not so fast)
Technology has of course helped many of us for many reasons; but there comes a time when it is necessary to ask whether a new technology or device is always the best choice. The law of diminishing returns can apply to any technology as well as to economics.
Consider the leafblower, for example. It may be faster than the beautifully simple (and beautifully quiet) rake, but does that mean it’s always superior? Whether or not you want to fire up its ear-shattering engine to blow your leaves and allergens onto the neighbor’s property or street – in order to have them blown back next day by an equally obnoxious noisemaker – is one technology choice that likely won’t threaten your health or your life. When it comes to choosing (or not choosing) a medical device, however, your choice could dramatically alter your life, or even end it.
Absent Cardiologists Get Better Results
A recent USA Today story puts the medical device choice in perspective. A Harvard study published Friday, March 9, 2018 in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that patients nationwide who had a heart attack during the biggest interventional cardiology conference of the year fared better than those who got sick in the weeks before or after the conference.
The paper reported that the results are either a statistical fluke, or that interventional cardiologists – who insert stents to open arteries – sometimes do their patients more harm than good.
Researchers examined 30-day survival rates of Medicare patients who suffered heart attacks during their cardiologists’ five-day conventions. They found that an extra 1.5% survived heart attacks which happened during the convention, as opposed to those who had heart attacks before or after it.
The difference means that thousands of lives were saved when cardiologists were at a five-day convention when their patients suffered heart attacks. The differences couldn’t be explained by the number of emergency stents implanted in patients, according to study leader Anupam Jena, an associate professor at Harvard medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
This research raises important questions about the safety and efficacy of placing stents in patients. The data suggest that stents should be placed only in those who are suffering a heart attack caused by a blocked artery. Where the cause of a heart attack is less clear, the disease may be managed by medication, which is usually overseen by general cardiologists, according to Robert Yeh, an interventional cardiologist and co-author of the study.
IVC Filters, inferior vana cava filters placed in the vein returning blood to the heart, with the advertised purpose of trapping blood clots, are another questionable device. Though they’ve been used extensively by many doctors for some ten years or so, their safety and efficacy is very much in question. There is virtually no evidence blood clot filters help. As a result, IVC filter lawsuits have been filed throughout the country. Lawsuit petitions in these cases argue that some IVC filters even cause more problems than they solve.
For at least 100 years, surgeons used simple suturing for hernia repairs, where surgery was deemed necessary. Then someone got the bright idea of using plastic mesh instead. The results have been catastrophic for many people, who, if given the choice again, would gladly choose the “old method” rather than the latest new plastic technology. Hundreds hurt by hernia mesh have filed hernia mesh lawsuits throughout the country.
Tens of thousands of lawsuits have been settled over transvaginal mesh made by Johnson & Johnson, Boston Scientific, C.R. Bard and others. Thousands of women who suffered stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse sued mesh makers and had their lawsuits settled.
Medical Devices May Harm more than Help
Medical device makers like C.R. Bard and Cook Medical will continue to develop and promote all manner of the latest technology in IVC filters, surgical mesh, and other medical devices of dubious value. Whether or not one chooses to use that latest medical device is a potentially life-changing choice. It is a decision not to be taken lightly. Attractive medical device models who sell doctors and shiny brochures do not a magic product make. One would be wise to perform a lot of research to see if any medical device is worth the risk of being implanted with it.