Overuse: medical novelty or age-old phenomenon?


  • João Ricardo Pinto Lopes Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, Escola Bahiana de Medicina e Saúde Pública (Salvador). Bahia, Brasil. http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3798-0340
  • João Souza Filho Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, Escola Bahiana de Medicina e Saúde Pública (Salvador). Bahia, Brasil. http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1206-2984
  • Carlos Danilo Crusoé Gomes Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, Escola Bahiana de Medicina e Saúde Pública (Salvador). Bahia, Brasil. http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3022-887X
  • Luis Cláudio Lemos Correia Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, Escola Bahiana de Medicina e Saúde Pública (Salvador). Bahia, Brasil. http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6910-1366




History, Medicine, Overuse, Physician


INTRODUCTION: Mentions of overuse tend to imply it is a recent phenomenon as if irrationality was brought about by technological advances and the development of new procedures. However, it is possible that physicians have been prone to the same cognitive biases since antiquity, also performing inappropriate and excessive procedures. This raises the question of whether the contemporary issue of overuse is a modern phenomenon or inherited from a multi-millennial medical tradition. OBJECTIVE: To infer an answer to this question by summarizing the medical literature about overuse throughout the history of medicine. METHODS: Medical overuse is defined as futile, low-value procedures characterized by excessive use of methods with a high probability of causing more harm than good to patients. It examines the history of medical literature, with a critical look at procedures that might be characterized as harmful, futile, or with excessive use of diagnostic and therapeutic methods. RESULTS: This analysis revealed evidence that such procedures have been taking place throughout many periods of history. Studies have shown that the current prevalence of inappropriate medical procedures can be as high as 29% in the United States and 80% of cases for some individual services around the world. Lack of reliable data thwarts accurate analysis of the prevalence of overuse before the last decade. CONCLUSIONS: Instead of a recent phenomenon, overuse has permeated medical practice from its beginnings until today, regardless of technological advances, and is possibly inherent to the human species.


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How to Cite

Lopes, J. R. P., Filho, J. S., Gomes, C. D. C., & Correia, L. C. L. (2022). Overuse: medical novelty or age-old phenomenon? . Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare, 4, e3792. https://doi.org/10.17267/2675-021Xevidence.2022.e3792



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