How Healthcare Might Be Like Garlic

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , August 4, 2011

The reversals were defined as evidence that types of care previously thought beneficial are actually useless or harmful. For example, we now know that certain kinds of spine surgery carry higher chances for mortality and in fact may require more surgeries down the line than treating the pain with medication.

The authors noted that the new research permitted reversal of earlier practice in part because earlier research was "improperly controlled."

The phrase medical reversal "implies error or harm to patients who underwent the practice in question, during the years it was considered effective," wrote Vinay Prasad, MD, and colleagues from the departments of medicine at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

They wrote that "studies of medical interventions are often followed by studies that either reach the opposite result or suggest the magnitude of effect was initially overestimated."

Now, better study designs, perhaps with tighter control, and more patients enrolled across multiple trial centers that include community as well academic medical settings, offer findings that are more revealing about whether a technique or therapeutic works.

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