High-tech imaging behind overkill surgery, Mayo Clinic says

September 5, 2013 by Ingrid Mezo

High-resolution imaging techniques that pick up tiny thyroid nodules have spurred a surge in risky thyroid surgeries in patients that may have been better off waiting.

High-tech imaging behind overkill surgery, Mayo Clinic says

High tech imaging has led to unnecessary, costly and risky treatment of low-risk cancers, according to a Mayo Clinic study published in the most recent issue of the British Medical Journal.

Researchers examined use of various imaging techniques, finding that their use has spurred a surge in surgical thyroid removal in cases that may have been better left alone. Surgical thyroid removals have tripled in the U.S. in the past 30 years, from 3.6 per 100,000 people in 1973 to 11.6 per 100,000 people in 2009, but the mortality rate of the disease remains unchanged, the study authors noted.

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"High tech imaging technologies such as ultrasound, CT and MRI can detect very small thyroid nodules, many of which are slow growing papillary thyroid cancers," lead author Juan Pablo Brito,an endocrine fellow and health care delivery scholar at Mayo Clinic, said in a press statement. "This is exposing patients to unnecessary and harmful treatments that are inconsistent with their prognosis."