Is your scan really necessary?

Camillo Miola, The Oracle, 1880. J. Paul Getty Museum

Camillo Miola, The Oracle, 1880. J. Paul Getty Museum

Imaging machines, writes Dalrymple,

are to doctors what the Oracle at Delphi was to ancient Greeks.

The patient is stuck into one of them and

out comes the diagnosis with no possibility of error or appeal. Diagnoses that used to take weeks of elaborate examinations and painful investigations are made in less than half a day.

Who now remembers

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 13.33.27

In air encephalography, fresh air was substituted for  cerebrospinal fluid, the better to show up ventricles

such ordeals as the air encephalogram, happily as redundant as the starting handle of a car?

However, older doctors

tend to lament that modern technology reduces the ability of their younger colleagues to perform physical examination of their patients or to exercise judgment, to the point that they are no longer aware of the necessity to exercise it: everything now is done by scan and algorithm.

Two other drawbacks to scanning technology are

  • the cost
  • the radiation to which it exposes patients, with possible ill-effects later in life. Medical scanning is now by far the most important cause of the population’s exposure to radiation

Dalrymple says it has been estimated that

up to a half of all scans performed are unnecessary.





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