09 March 2015

Many common surgical interventions, such as meniscus surgery, are both costly and risky, and offer no benefits at all – according to agroup of orthopaedic ”myth busters”.
Their articles in scientific journals have been met with protests from arthroscopic surgeons. Per Aspenberg, professor of orthopaedics at LiU, estimates that in Linköping alone, some 150 arthroscopies are carried out every year.

”By questioning these types of myths, you challenge people’s desire for meaning in their existence,” says Prof Aspenberg, whose animated video ”Myth busting in medicine” was recently published in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).

Sense of meaning and safety

”Medical practice may be full of ’knowledge’ that arises from combining reasonable observations into a meaningful story. When such stories emerge and spread without being tested scientifically they become medical myths, and we tend to hold on to them because they provide us with a sense of meaning and safety, just as myths may have done in antiquity. No wonder, then, that myth busters tend to be unpopular,” Prof Aspengren writes in the introduction to the video.

The video has been published in conjunction with the journal’s campaign ”Too much medicine”, which presents various examples of overdiagnosis in health care – unnecessary drugs and unnecessary diagnoses that do more harm than good.

This is the first time the BMJ publishes an article in video form only.

Two conflicting scientific approaches

Boy adds the final building block to a temple. Sketch.”It’s about two conflicting scientific approaches – one that dominated the 19th century, where science is equal to our collective knowledge. And one that stems from the 1930s, which says that all knowledge is theories that have value until they are rejected. My aim is to mediate a peace between the two approaches,” Prof Aspenberg explains.

Åke Hjelm 2015-03-09