Thursday, May 19, 2011


Today I learned a new term: VOMIT
Victim of Medical Imaging Technology

The idea being that if you begin searching too deeply, you'll find something that may not even be there. One elevated number on a blood test leads to an x-ray, which leads to a CT scan or MRI for more detail, which leads to a biopsy, which leads to an infection, which leads to prolonged course of antibiotics with side effects... which eventually leads to the realization that it was just a touch of dehydration and a bad x-ray angle to begin with. It's like the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" story we read in elementary school.

Sure, there are times where advanced testing leads to early diagnosis, but most of the time it leads to unnecessary diagnostic procedures which each carry their own large risk and price tag. In the 2.5 weeks I've been on medicine I've already seen it numerous times. Patients coming in for chest pain, or abdominal pain, or mild limb swelling end up spending multiple nights in the hospital, get poked like a pin cushion, exposed to nasty bugs, and end up going home perfectly resolved without any real treatment or known causative agent.

I don't know what the right answer is though. Clearly these tests and procedures have their role in medicine. I reckon that it is all about finding the balance between the view that every life is as valuable as the world and the oath that all doctors take to do no harm.

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