Too many operations in Germany

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Nationwide average and interdisciplinary 15 percent more operations

Is the scalpel being used too quickly in Germany? According to evaluations by the statutory health insurance company KKH-Allianz, there has been a drastic increase across Germany, especially in orthopedic operations. Given this data, health insurance representatives are concerned about patients.

Does every medical intervention really make sense? In view of a new patient data analysis by the health insurance company KKH-Allianz, insured persons have to ask themselves this question. The study found that in some medical fields, surgery is almost twice as often compared to previous comparative data. The number of interventions has increased by more than 15 percent since 2006 (survey values ​​for 2010). Accordingly, the knife was used in 166,000 cases in German clinics. Surgery was carried out particularly frequently in the area of ​​the spinal cord and spine, as stated in the health insurance report. A rate of increase of over 61 percent was measured on the spinal cord. Surgeons operated on the spine about twice as often (53 percent) than four years ago. But there are also massive increases in the area of ​​internal medicine. Surgery on the kidney has increased by around 45 percent, according to the cash register report.

Operations based on financial interests?
Did people get sicker in the short period of time? Have new medical findings been developed that have led to this increase? Hardly, because the increases are interdisciplinary and rather point to another problem. The large number of surgeries is a headache for health insurance companies, and not just for financial reasons. The health insurance company chairman of the KKH alliance Ingo Kailuwei said, "we are concerned about the significant increases within a few years". Many hospitals are currently experiencing difficult times and financial worries. This is why patients are likely to be operated on multiple times, although gentler or less serious treatments would actually be much more effective. Here "the suspicion arises that decisions are not always made for the benefit of the patient," says Kailuwei, head of the health insurance fund. In many cases, operations can aggravate the symptoms, especially in the lumbar and spinal area, as well-known doctors from the portal "Unnecessary Operations" recently warned.

Specializations of the clinics required
The cash register chairman therefore calls for greater specialization in hospitals in order to increase the quality of the therapies. "It makes no sense from a qualitative or economic point of view to run every hospital as a general store with all the services," warned Kailuweit. According to this, clinics should form therapeutic focal points in order to "offer highly professional help for special clinical pictures."

The numbers rose most rapidly in Hamburg. Interdisciplinary 36 percent more medical interventions were registered here than in 2006. Critics see this as a sign of the progressive privatization of the healthcare system. Instead of the patient's health, it is often only about money. (sb)

Read on:
New doctor portal against unnecessary operations
Health: number of surgeries rose sharply

Image: Dieter Schütz /

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