At what point do surgical innovations give diminishing returns?

One reason why health care costs are rising is the demand for the latest medical technologies.

And when it comes to surgery, the latest techniques may not be worth the costs. General surgeon Jeffrey Parks talks about gallbladder surgery, where, the laparoscopic approach reduced hospital stays and diminished surgical scarring, and as Dr. Parks puts it, “the innovation has inarguably justified its increased cost.”

But when talking about so-called “natural orifice surgery,” where procedures are done without an incision, he questions the increased cost of the procedure.

Like with the latest drugs, we have to be judicious in how we adopt surgical techniques, or as Dr. Parks puts it, “If we temporarily abandon costly innovations that provide only subtle benefit, I think we’ll [still] nevertheless be all right.”

And with health care costs projected to consume more than a fifth of the nation’s GDP, it’s a necessary approach.


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