Here Are The Top 10 Most Unnecessary Medical Treatments, According to Scientists

A recent literature study on medical care in the US has put forward ten diagnostic procedures and treatments that were overused in 2016, with the intention of highlighting ways that the medical system could be made more effective and more efficient.

Medicine is often a numbers game. While doctors do a smashing job with limited resources, sometimes striking a balance between time and costs means pills and procedures get prescribed without the patient’s best interests in mind.

“Too often, health care practitioners do not rely on the latest evidence and their patients don’t get the best care,” says researcher Daniel Morgan from the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine.

“Hopefully this study will spread the word about the most overused tests and treatments.”

The team dug through journal articles in the PubMed archive, using search terms such as overuse, overtreatment, inappropriate, and unnecessary. The team considered 2,252 papers, of which 1,224 addressed the overuse of medicine directly. Specifically, the papers reported on “care in which potential harms outweigh potential benefits.”

These were further whittled to 122 papers which were identified as significant. The researchers then agreed on their following ‘top ten’.

Transesophageal echocardiography

In simple terms, this procedure takes pictures of your heart using ultrasound via a tube inserted into your oesophagus. A doctor might use this instead of doing an electrocardiogram, but research suggests any extra detail it might produce isn’t worth the risks of being sedated.

Computed tomography pulmonary angiography

A diagnostic test that images the pulmonary arteries in patients with respiratory symptoms using a CT scan. It isn’t invasive, and is highly sensitive, but hits the patient with a dose of radiation. The wait for this test is likely to result in delays that raise the risk of complications developing.

Computed tomography in any patients with respiratory symptoms

Any kind of CT scan on a patient with non-life threatening respiratory symptoms, according to the study, does little to improve the patient’s outcome. Worse still, these scans raise risks of false positives, where the test indicates a non-existent pathology.

Carotid artery ultrasonography and stenting

Carotid ultrasounds are done to test the width of arteries at the neck, which could help indicate risk of stroke.

Early diagnosis can be a life saver, but the researchers found 9 out of 10 tests being done on asymptomatic patients that resulted in an artery-widening ‘stent’ being inserted were done on inappropriate grounds.

Since stents require surgery, it’s likely a number of these are inflating risk unnecessarily.

Aggressive management of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is another condition that can be treated easily if found early.

A blood test for markers called prostate antigens can do that, but it’s hard to tell if they’re produced by an aggressive tumour that needs to be dealt with or a slow growing one that the patient can take to their grave in years to come.

Just 1 percent of men who had their prostate removed – risking the complications that go with that – died of the cancer. Of those who kept their prostate? About the same.

Supplemental oxygen for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Giving more oxygen to patients with the lung illness COPD didn’t help their lungs work better or improve their wellbeing. But it can cause them to retain carbon dioxide. Which isn’t good.

Surgery for meniscal cartilage tears

Ripping the C-shaped shock-absorbing discs of cartilage inside your knee is no laughing matter. But going to the trouble of repairing it surgically was found to have few benefits that couldn’t be achieved through conservative management and rehabilitation.

Nutritional support in medical inpatients

Overall, malnutrition doesn’t do a patient much good. On the other hand, giving nutritional support to critically ill patients made no difference in terms of hospital stay or mortality, even if it helped them put on weight.

In the event of failing organs or metabolic complications, that support might carry risks that aren’t balanced by benefits.

Use of antibiotics

A 2016 study estimated 506 prescriptions were being written in 2010 to 2011 for every 1000 people. Only 353 could be considered appropriate.

The CDC’s National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria aims to reduce inappropriate outpatient antibiotic use by 50 percent within the next few years.

The researchers noted that of the measures in this plan, the most effective was to use social pressures, encouraging doctors to take note of good prescription practices among their colleagues.

Use of cardiac imaging

Cardiac imaging for patients with chest pain was found to have tripled over the past decade, while doing nothing for low-risk patients. This risks leading to unnecessary hospital stays and interventions.

The solution? According to the researchers, doctors should share decision making with their patient.

None of these results should be taken to mean these tests and procedures are to be avoided. We’re not medical professionals at ScienceAlert, so our best advice is – as always – don’t be afraid to ask your doctor.

Research that takes a critical look at how professionals deliver medical care is important for maintaining high standards with available resources.

This research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Via ScienceAlert

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SpaceX’s Elon Musk updates Mars plans

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Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites

Discover how Jan van Eyck’s ‘Arnolfini Portrait’ was one of the beacons by which the Pre-Raphaelites forged a radical new style. ‘Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites’ opens on 2 October.

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Blue Planet II : The Prequel

This world-exclusive introduction to the show is narrated by series presenter Sir David Attenborough and set to an exclusive track developed by Hans Zimmer and Radiohead. The prequel features an array of some of the most awe-inspiring shots and highlights from the new series, as well as several exclusive scenes that will not feature in any of the seven episodes which are set for UK broadcast on BBC One later this year.

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The Headington Shark

The Headington Shark (proper name Untitled 1986) is a rooftop sculpture located at 2 New High Street, Headington, Oxford, England, depicting a large shark embedded head-first in the roof of a house.

The shark first appeared on 9 August 1986. Bill Heine, a local radio presenter who owned the house until 2016, has said “The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation… It is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki”. The sculpture, which is reported to weigh 4 long hundredweight (200 kg) and is 25 feet (7.6 m) long, fibreglass, is named Untitled 1986 (written on the gate of the house). The sculpture was erected on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. It was designed by sculptor John Buckley and constructed by Anton Castiau, a local carpenter and friend of John Buckley.

For the occasion of the shark’s 21st anniversary in August 2007, it was renovated by the sculptor, following earlier complaints about the condition of the sculpture and the house. On 26 August 2016 Bill Heine’s son Magnus Hanson-Heine bought the house in order to preserve the Headington Shark.


Created by sculptor John Buckley, the shark was controversial when it first appeared. Oxford City Council tried to have it taken down on grounds of safety, and then on the ground that it had not given planning permission for the shark, offering to host it at the local swimming pool instead, but there was much local support for the shark. Eventually the matter was taken to the central government, where Tony Baldry, a minister in the Department of the Environment, who assessed the case on planning grounds, ruled in 1992 that the shark would be allowed to remain as it did not result in harm to the visual amenity.

Media appearances

The unexpected shark appeared in a 2002 newspaper advertising campaign for a new financial advice service offered by Freeserve. The advertisement, designed by M&C Saatchi, featured a photograph of the house with the caption “Freedom to find the mortgage that’s right for you”.

In 2013, the sculpture was the subject of an April Fools’ Day story in the Oxford Mail, which announced the establishment of a fictitious £200,000 fund by Oxford City Council to support the creation of similar sculptures on the roofs of other homes in the area.

In 2015, the sculpture was featured in the Channel 4 programme Damned Designs, which focuses on properties that have not followed planning permission. On 1 February 2017 the Headington shark was the answer to a question posed on BBC2’s Eggheads. Via Wiki

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60 perfectly preserved shipwrecks over 2,400 years old have been found in the Black Sea

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Engineers 3-D print high-strength aluminum, solve ages-old welding problem using nanoparticles

HRL Laboratories has made a breakthrough in metallurgy with the announcement that researchers at the famous facility have developed a technique for successfully 3D printing high-strength aluminum alloys—including types Al7075 and Al6061—that opens the door to additive manufacturing of engineering-relevant alloys. These alloys are very desirable for aircraft and automobile parts and have been among thousands that were not amenable to additive manufacturing—3D printing—a difficulty that has been solved by the HRL researchers. An added benefit is that their method can be applied to additional alloy families such as high-strength steels and nickel-based superalloys difficult to process currently in additive manufacturing.

“We’re using a 70-year-old nucleation theory to solve a 100-year-old problem with a 21st century machine,” said Hunter Martin, who co-led the team with Brennan Yahata. Both are engineers in the HRL’s Sensors and Materials Laboratory and PhD students at University of California, Santa Barbara studying with Professor Tresa Pollock, a co-author on the study. Their paper 3D printing of high-strength aluminum was published in the September 21, 2017 issue of Nature.

Additive manufacturing of metals typically begins with alloy powders that are applied in thin layers and heated with a laser or other direct heat source to melt and solidify the layers. Normally, if high-strength unweldable aluminum alloys such as Al7075 or AL6061 are used, the resulting parts suffer severe hot cracking—a condition that renders a metal part able to be pulled apart like a flaky biscuit.

HRL’s nanoparticle functionalization technique solves this problem by decorating high-strength unweldable alloy powders with specially selected . The nanoparticle-functionalized powder is fed into a 3D printer, which layers the powder and laser-fuses each layer to construct a three-dimensional object. During melting and solidification, the nanoparticles act as nucleation sites for the desired alloy microstructure, preventing hot cracking and allowing for retention of full alloy strength in the manufactured part.

Source: Engineers 3-D print high-strength aluminum, solve ages-old welding problem using nanoparticles


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How to move large blocks

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NASA’s Cassini Finally Faces Its Fiery Doom

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Flexible organic batteries could fit pacemakers

Thanks to Jacki Thomas for suggesting this post.

A new kind of flexible “organic battery” could provide a more comfortable alternative to people fitted with pacemakers, say researchers.

Currently, heart devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators are powered by rigid metal-based batteries implanted under the skin that can rub and cause soreness.

The new invention from Queen’s University, Belfast, is made from biodegradable organic material and can change shape to suit the user.

Dr Geetha Srinivasan, from the university’s Ionic Liquid Laboratories Research Centre, said: “In medical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators, there are two implants, one which is fitted in the heart and another which holds the metal based, rigid batteries. This is implanted under the skin.

“The implant under the skin is wired to the device and can cause patients discomfort as it is rubs against the skin.

“For this reason, batteries need to be compatible to the human body and ideally we would like them to be flexible so that they can adapt to body shapes.

“We have designed a flexible energy storage device which… has a longer life cycle, is non-flammable, has no leakage issues and above all, it is more flexible for placing within the body.”

Details of the device are published in the journal Energy Technology and Green Chemistry. Source: Flexible organic batteries could fit pacemakers

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China’s Building a Full-Sized Titanic Replica

Zhang Zhi | Getty Images

The sinking of the Titanic continues to fascinate a surprising number of people. Soon, the first full-size replica of the ocean liner will allow delighted tourists to relive the ill-fated ship’s maiden voyage, right down to the crash.

The Unsinkable Titanic theme park measures nearly 883 feet long by 93 feet wide, and sits on the bank of the Qijiang River smack in China’s landlocked Sichuan Province. The ship will boast a ballroom, observation deck and first-class cabins, all fitted with historically accurate fixtures. The kitchen will serve up the same European fare passengers enjoyed. And, in a morbid twist, it will simulate the experience of being aboard the ship at the moment it crashed into that iceberg, just in case you forgot the Titanic wasn’t all fun.

The $160 million project is the centerpiece of the Romandisea resort, which also will feature a Venetian wedding chapel and “the world’s largest artificial indoor sky and seaside beach.” Qixing Energy Group chairman Su Shaojun says the company spent years purchasing fragments of the Titanic’s blueprints and hired Hollywood production designer Curtis Schnell to accurately reproduce it. Construction kicked off in December.

Previous attempts to build a full-on replica proved as disastrous as the ship’s voyage. In 1998, a South African businessman Sarel Gous announced plans to build Titanic II, but eventually scrapped the idea. Australian businessman Clive Palmer announced his own full-scale Titanic II five years ago, but the project stalled. But as this colorful aerial snapped by photographer Zhang Zhi shows, Unsinkable Titanic is coming along swimmingly, with more than 1,000 workers building the hull at Wuchang shipyard in Wuhan.

When complete, visitors will pay $435 a night to spend the night in an economy class rooms on a ship that faithfully reproduces everything passengers experienced aboard Titanic. Except the unpleasant bit at the end.

Edited from: Photo of the Week: China’s Building a Full-Sized Titanic Replica Because Why Not

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New device accurately identifies cancer in seconds

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The Most Common Misconceptions

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First-ever evidence of strange bouncing light particles has been caught in the LHC

Light is pretty awesome. It’s made of subatomic particles called photons, which also behave like waves. It’s been demonstrated to act like both a particle and a wave simultaneously. Photons can be entangled at a distance. They reflect, refract and diffract. They have angular momentum, but no mass.

One thing they had never been observed doing was bouncing off each other and changing direction like snooker balls. But new research from the ATLAS experiment at CERN describes the first direct evidence of this actually happening.

The phenomenon is called light-by-light scattering, described by the Euler-Heisenberg Lagrangian published in 1936 by Hans Heinrich Euler and Werner Heisenberg (of uncertainty principle fame), and calculated by Robert Karplus and Maurice Neuman in 1951.

“According to classical electrodynamics, beams of light pass each other without being scattered,” explained Mateusz Dyndal, a researcher from DESY who performed a major role in data analysis, in a press release. “But if we take quantum physics into account, light can be scattered by light, even though this phenomenon seems very improbable.”

ATLAS researcher Jon Butterworth, a physics professor at University College London, likened it to two rubber balls bouncing off each other in an article he wrote for The Guardian.

The observation took place in the Large Hadron Collider, during a 2015 run in which it was smashing lead nuclei together. This is a much higher energy particle than the collider’s usual protons, which means there’s a dense cloud of photons involved. The heavy ions don’t usually collide with each other, but the photons can interact in what is called “ultra-peripheral collisions.”Out of four billion events analysed, the team found 13 candidate events for two photons interacting with each other and changing direction, rather than passing each other by.

Source: First-ever evidence of strange bouncing light particles has been caught in the LHC

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Monster X-ray laser offers glimpse into nano-world

The world’s most powerful X-ray laser opened Friday in Germany, promising to shed new light onto very small things by letting scientists penetrate the inner workings of atoms, viruses and chemical reactions. The mega-project generates extremely intense laser flashes, at a mind-boggling rate of 27,000 per second, inside a 3.4-kilometre (2.1-mile) tunnel below the northern city of Hamburg.

Hailed as one of Europe’s most cutting-edge research projects, the European XFEL, hidden 38 metres (125 feet) below corn fields and residential areas, was opened after eight years’ construction at a ribbon-cutting ceremony with science and technology ministers from the 11 countries involved.

At the heart of the 1.5-billion-euro ($1.7 billion) facility is the ultrafast X-ray laser strobe light, which will allow researchers for the first time to look deep inside matter and take snapshots and “molecular movies”.

“We can look deep into the micro-world, the nano-world, the world of atoms and molecules, and study things we didn’t previously know, for example what molecules do in a chemical reaction,” said Johanna Wanka, Germany’s education and research minister.

Teams from around the world will be able to, for instance, map the atomic details of viruses, take 3-D images of the molecular make-up of cells or film chemical reactions as they happen.

The huge laser is “like a camera and a microscope that will make it possible to see more tiny details and processes in the nano-world than ever before,” XFEL managing director Robert Feidenhans’l told AFP.

He said that so far, scientists know many chemical and biological processes only by their outcomes—like a football fan reading the score of a match he missed.

“Now you can see the game and you can analyse it … so next time you can win,” Feidenhans’l said. “The game could be a chemical process, a biological process, it could be how you get energy from sunlight. The principle is the same: you want to see the game.” Source: Monster X-ray laser offers glimpse into nano-world (Update)

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‘Simple’ chess puzzle holds key to $1m prize

Researchers at the University of St Andrews have thrown down the gauntlet to computer programmers to find a solution to a “simple” chess puzzle which could, in fact, take thousands of years to solve and net a $1m prize.

Computer Scientist Professor Ian Gent and his colleagues, at the University of St Andrews, believe any program capable of solving the famous “Queens Puzzle” efficiently, would be so powerful, it would be capable of solving tasks currently considered impossible, such as decrypting the toughest security on the internet.

In a paper published in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research today, the team conclude the rewards to be reaped by such a program would be immense, not least in financial terms with firms rushing to use it to offer technological solutions, and also a $1m prize offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute in America.

Devised in 1850, the Queens Puzzle originally challenged a player to place eight queens on a standard chessboard so that no two queens could attack each other. This means putting one queen in each row, so that no two queens are in the same column, and no two queens in the same diagonal. Although the problem has been solved by human beings, once the chess board increases to a large size no computer program can solve it.

Professor Gent and his colleagues, Senior Research Fellow Dr Peter Nightingale and Reader Dr Christopher Jefferson, all of the School of Computer Science at the University, first became intrigued by the puzzle after a friend challenged Professor Gent to solve it on Facebook.

The team found that once the chess board reached 1000 squares by 1000, computer progams could no longer cope with the vast number of options and sunk into a potentially eternal struggle akin to the fictional “super computer” Deep Thought in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which took seven and a half million years to provide an answer to the meaning of everything.

Professsor Gent said: “If you could write a computer program that could solve the problem really fast, you could adapt it to solve many of the most important problems that affect us all daily.

“This includes trivial challenges like working out the largest group of your Facebook friends who don’t know each other, or very important ones like cracking the codes that keep all our online transactions safe.”

The reason these problems are so difficult for computer programs, is that there are so many options to consider that it can take many years. This is due to a process of “backtracking” – an algorithm used in programming where every possible option is considered and then “backed away” from until the correct solution is found.

Dr Nightingale said: “However, this is all theoretical. In practice, nobody has ever come close to writing a program that can solve the problem quickly. So what our research has shown is that – for all practical purposes – it can’t be done.”

Dr Jefferson added: “There is a $1,000,000 prize for anyone who can prove whether or not the Queens Puzzle can be solved quickly so the rewards are high.”

Chess has long provided the source for puzzles such as the traditional fable of the servant who, when asked to choose a reward by his king, asked for one grain of rice to be placed on the first square of a standard 8×8 chessboard, doubled in the next and so on until it was found there was not enough rice in the entire world. Source: ‘Simple’ chess puzzle holds key to $1m prize


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Denis Diderot

Denis Diderot (October 5, 1713 – July 31, 1784) was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer. He was a prominent person during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to – the inspiration for Deskarati

the  Encyclopédie.

Diderot also contributed to literature, notably with Jacques le fataliste et son maître (Jacques the Fatalist and his Master), which emulated Laurence Sterne in challenging conventions regarding novels and their structure and content, while also examining philosophical ideas about free will. Diderot is also known as the author of the dialogue, Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau’s Nephew), upon which many articles and sermons about consumer desire have been based. His articles included many topics of the Enlightenment.

Continue reading on Deskarati

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Renaissance artist Titian died on this day in 1576. Although he was arguably the leading Venetian painter for much of the 16th century, few confirmed examples of his early drawings survive. This pen and ink drawing was probably made between 1515 and 1525. Its airy quality and varied pen strokes lead scholars to believe this is indeed a drawing by the young Titian. It depicts St Eustice or St Hubert in a landscape with a classical ruin in the background – it’s unclear which saint is shown as both are associated with the stag. Source: British Museum

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Antarctic salt-loving microbes provide insights into evolution of viruses

UNSW Sydney scientists studying microbes from some of the saltiest lakes in Antarctica have discovered a new way that the tiny organisms can share DNA that could help them grow and survive.

The research, based on 18 months of water sampling in remote Antarctic locations, including during the extreme cold of winter, could throw light on the evolutionary history of viruses.

The team unexpectedly discovered one strain of the Antarctic salt-loving microbes contained plasmids – small molecules of DNA which can replicate independently in a host cell, and which often contain genes useful to an organism.

“Unlike viruses, which encase themselves in a protective protein coat, plasmids usually move around by cell to cell contact, or as a piece of naked DNA,” says research team leader UNSW scientist Professor Rick Cavicchioli.

“But the plasmids that we found in the Antarctic microbes were masquerading as viruses. They produced proteins which went into the host’s membrane, which then allowed the membrane to bud off containing the plasmid DNA.

“The budded membranes, called membrane vesicles, allowed the plasmids to infect microbes of the same species that did not have any plasmids present, and then replicate themselves in the new host,” he says.

Study first author Dr Susanne Erdmann says: “This is the first time this mechanism has been documented. And it could be an evolutionary forerunner to some of the more structured protective coats that viruses have developed to help them spread and become successful invaders.

“This finding suggests some viruses may have evolved from plasmids,” she says. Source: Antarctic salt-loving microbes provide insights into evolution of viruses

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How Does a Heart Attack Happen

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