…and may in-fact — harm you.
This week, The New York Times published a very interesting article advising caution about shiny new objects that appear on the horizon in medicine. The article focused on whether or not the newest technology available in medicine is frequentlythe best technology or intervention available for you. The take-home message of the article was simply that because something is shiny and new does not necessarily mean it is in your best interest. Although this story plays in many spaces, it is especially true in medicine. It is even more significant in the sub-specialty realm of Orthopedic Surgery. It is not uncommon for a new technology to work wonderfully in a laboratory, or in a small subset of patients during early clinical trials – – – only to find out years later that there are significant problems with that new technology— and it is relegated to the graveyard of historical significance only.
Many people come walking in to my office with a newspaper ad or a newspaper article highlighting a new technology and they are wondering whether it is relevant to them. I enjoy having these conversations with people. It broadens my perspective and knowledge base, and hopefully broadens theirs too. If necessary, I temper their enthusiasm for a new procedure with a discussion of one of many examples where a new technology came onto the orthopedic scene, became the must do or must have procedure — only to find out years later it was injuring people.
If you read an article or see an ad about a new technology, a new medication, cream or ointment — and it touts being the best option for you — I caution you to peel back the curtain and understand that it takes years for us to determine if new technologies are in fact better than pre-existing technologies. Without knowing it, even though these shiny new objects are FDA approved, etc — if you choose to undergo a procedure with a new technology you may in fact be signing up to be a guinea pig.
Please don’t take this short piece the wrong way. There are plenty of new technologies which prolong lives, save lives, and dramatically improve people’s quality of life. I simply want to implore you to have a meaningful sit down and lengthy discussion with your surgeon or primary care physician about these new technologies — and what they could potentially offer you — AND what the potential downsides are.
Lastly, don’t forget, this is the dawning of the age of social media and the intersection of healthcare. You have tremendous resources available to you online to ask patients who have undergone these procedures, or to find other people who are currently considering these same procedures. In some instances you also have the ability to converse with physicians as well. You can engage and educate one another as you work towards a decision as to whether or not you will be the next in line to try this new procedure.