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What are the risks associated with inappropriate medical tests?

Inappropriate medical testing is not only wasteful but also can lead to harm when false-positive results lead to further testing and procedures that carry risk. For example, a benign-looking finding on a chest X-ray can lead to additional radiation exposure or invasive procedures that sometimes cause complications.

The American Board of Internal Medicine and nine subspecialty groups published a list of 45 commonly used procedures that should be re-evaluated by patients and doctors because there is little or no evidence to support their use and some evidence of potential harm. Examples include cardiac-stress tests in people without symptoms and pre-operative chest X-rays in people without histories of lung problems.

Other examples include brain imaging for common headaches and X-rays for general low-back pain. These lists are meant to publicize the problem of excessive testing and serve as guidelines for doctors and patients. Individual circumstances should determine which tests are really indicated.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.