Most Dangerous Medical Procedures You May Want to Avoid If You’re Over 50

We know by the time you hit 50, you’re familiar with aches and pains you never would have guessed you’d have when you were 20. And you’re also bombarded with medical advice from well-meaning friends and family. They want you to be as healthy as possible, this is true. But getting test after test to make sure everything’s in working order isn’t always the best route.

The most responsible course of action is always to ask your doctor about their recommendations. But for now, these medical procedures are unnecessary — and even dangerous  — if you’re in the over-50 crowd.

1. Imaging tests for back pain expose you to radiation

Young Businesswoman On Chair Having Backpain

Make sure your back pain truly warrants an imaging test. |

You should rethink whether you want imaging tests for your back pain. Prevention explains the American Academy of Family Physicians says when you get scans of your back, they often reveal “abnormalities” that may not actually be a real issue. This can lead to taking treatments that are unhelpful, or even harmful, in the long run.

There’s also the radiation to consider. You’re only exposed to a small amount, but over time, it can increase your cancer risk.

Next: It seems like a great idea to get this before surgery, but is it really?

2. Pre-surgery testing can come back abnormal even when you’re fine

Blood drawn from an old man arm

Keep this in mind when you visit the doctor. | Picsfive/iStock/Getty Images

It seems wise to receive pre-surgery testing for elective procedures just to be on the safe side. But AARP notes it’s not always the best course of action to take. Not only are extra blood tests and X-rays costly, they’re unnecessary in many cases. And there are times when the results may show abnormalities even when nothing is actually wrong, which can stress you out and cause delays in your surgery.

Next: You should know the risks before you take part in this procedure.

3. Coronary angiograms are extremely risky

Heart Pain

This procedure can be terrifying. | TeoLazarev/iStock/Getty Images

The Atlantic explains a coronary angiogram is a procedure that involves inserting a catheter into an artery to check for blockages. While this can be useful and life-saving, it’s quite invasive and not always necessary. Research shows one in 50 people who receive stents will have a serious complication or die from the implantation.

As cardiovascular doctor David L. Brown says, “nobody that’s not having a heart attack needs a stent.” Ask your doctor about possible other solutions if this is their recommendation.

Next: This procedure is extremely common — but do you always need it?

4. Gallbladder removal isn’t always the best course of action

Close-up of surgeons hands holding surgical scissors and passing surgical equipment , motion blur background.

Make sure this is a necessity before you agree to the surgery. |

Here’s the good news: Gallbladder surgery doesn’t come with the same high risk of complications as some other procedures on the list. With that said, CBS News notes many people over the course of their lifetime choose to get their gallbladder removed when they experience mild discomfort. Keep in mind, Prevention notes your tolerance to some foods may change after removing this organ. Your favorite high-fat foods may be off-limits unless there’s a bathroom nearby.

Next: Yes, even dentistry has its downsides.

5. Dental implants can be dangerous

Set of metal dentist's medical equipment tools

Take care of your implants. | YakubovAlim/iStock/Getty Images

If you’ve lost a few teeth over the years, you’ve probably considered dental implants. But you should keep in mind there are risks associated with this procedure. notes if you don’t clean or floss your implants properly, it can lead to infection. Or, if you smoke or use any tobacco products, this also increases your infection risk.

And that’s not all — dental implants can also cause nerve damage if they’re placed incorrectly, or they can lead to complications with your sinuses.

Next: If your doctor prescribed these to you, be wary.

6. Prescription sleeping pills increase the risk of falling

Older unable to sleep

After a bad fall, recovery may be slow. | Motortion/iStock/Getty Images

This isn’t a surgery, but sleeping pills can still be extremely risky to take if you don’t absolutely need them. AARP reports seniors should be wary of medications like Restril and Ambien since they increase the risk of falls. And the older you get, the higher the likelihood that those falls will result in hip fractures. If you’re struggling with insomnia, ask your doctor about other therapies.

Next: This is fairly routine, but it might prevent more risks than you think.

7. If you’re healthy, double check if you really need that blood panel

It this truly necessary? |

It seems better to get a blood panel that to skip it — and in many cases, getting your blood work done is a necessary part of life. Newsweek says you should double check with your doctor if you feel like you’re getting blood work completed for every little thing, however.

If you’re healthy and have never had any complications from surgeries or medications in the past, a blood panel testing over 20 measurements often catches something that falls just out of the boundaries of normal. In reality, it’s typically a lab error — but it can cause you a great deal of stress before they figure that out.

Next: You might need this life-saving procedure — but leaving it can be deadly. 

8. Catheters can be fatal if left in too long

Senior woman in hospital

Take care of yourself and those you love. |

AARP gives this startling statistic: One in five patients at the hospital have a urinary catheter inserted. Research shows about half of them don’t need it, however. If you are one of the few who really need one, request that you get it removed as soon as possible. This is because your chances of developing a urinary tract infection increase the longer you have a catheter in. Since UTIs are the most common infections acquired in hospitals and can be fatal, it’s important to prevent them.

Next: This screening sounds important, but you probably don’t need it after all. 

9. A cardiac stress test provides little benefit

Men and women run on treadmills at a fit

Is this really worth the effort and time? | ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/GettyImages

If you have a family history of heart disease, it may be a good idea to get a cardiac stress test. But if you’re healthy and don’t have a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, or high cholesterol, then you really don’t need this done, says Prevention.

If you’re getting these done yearly, as some doctors recommend, you’ll probably want to rethink this. The stress test may find abnormalities when really your heart is in fine condition — and these blips can then lead to other invasive procedures down the road.

Next: This is often recommended to older women, but it can hurt your cardiovascular system.

10. Hormone replacement therapy after menopause can hurt your heart

Middle aged woman

After menopause, take an extra close look at your heart health. | Natalie_board/iStock/Getty Images

Reader’s Digest explains hormone replacement therapy is often prescribed to post-menopausal women to ease their symptoms. Since many women experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and irritability, HRT can be really helpful here. But some need to be careful when considering this therapy, as research shows it can actually make heart health worse. Doctors recommend taking HRT for the shortest amount of time possible if you choose it at all.

Next: Getting this routine screening could lead to surgery you don’t really need.

11. Thyroid screenings can lead to extremely invasive surgery

A family doctor checks a patient's mouth and throat at her office

Get your thyroid checked, but know the risk. | Sean Gallup/ Getty Images

You’ve heard getting your thyroid checked is a good thing — and if you have a family history of thyroid issues, then getting screened isn’t a bad idea. But Reader’s Digest explains ultrasounds to check for thyroid cancer often show small nodules that won’t end up growing at all. Once you know they’re there, however, doctors will probably recommend you remove them — or that you remove your thyroid altogether. If you do end up getting this gland removed, you’ll have to take replacement hormones for life as a result.

Next: It’s recommended you don’t get this risky screening unless you have symptoms. 

12. Screenings for carotid artery disease can increase the risk of stroke

Older at doctor

Heart health is something everyone should be aware of. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Carotid artery stenosis is no joke. And it’s important to know the symptoms for this disease that narrows the arteries and increases stroke risk. If you’re familiar with the symptoms and don’t have any, however, it may be in your best interest to skip the screenings, says AARP.

Glen Stream, M.D., tells the publication that “more people are harmed than helped by having this test,” as it often leads to more testing and, in some cases, invasive surgery. And some of the surgeries may also increase your stroke risk.

Next: It’s important to know your bone health, but you may not need this test just yet.

13. You can probably postpone your bone density test until you’re over 65

Aged woman suffering from pain in knee

You may lose bone density over time. | Maroke/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re not at high risk for bone loss and you’re under the age of 65, you can probably skip that bone density test, Prevention explains. These tests are X-rays that measure minerals in your bones, and unless you have experienced bone loss, you probably don’t need them.

If you do decide to get the test, it’s possible it can detect very mild bone loss, and your doctor may prescribe medications with undesirable side effects. It’s also worth noting many treatments only help for a few years.

Next: This procedure may lead to cancer later on.

14. CT scans expose you to radiation

Doctor operating CT scanner

Radiation can be dangerous. | Photo_Concepts/iStock/Getty Images

CT scans can be incredibly useful for doctors to identify tumors, cysts, and other abnormalities in your body. But according to Reader’s Digest, studies show as many as 2% of all cancer cases in the U.S. could be from CT scans. This is because the machines contain as much radiation as 200 X-rays.

What’s even worse is that many people who get these scans think they need them, when in reality, they may not. Some health professionals recommend the much-safer MRI.

Next: If you go in for this elective surgery and you’re over 50, you’re at a much higher risk for complications.

15. Breast reduction surgery gets more complicated after 50

couple on consultation with a doctor

The surgery is an option, but still has risks. | Didesign021/iStock/Getty Images

According to research presented on The Aesthetic Channel, women over the age of 50 who decide to get breast reduction surgery are more susceptible to infections afterwards. Results from a study show that the infection rate was 2.7 times higher for this age group than for women under the age of 40. Also, the over-50 crowd had a more difficult time with wound healing.

If you’re considering getting this surgery done, make sure to talk to your doctor about the potential risks.

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