Just like there are sugar pills — placebo surgeries can trick patients. Are doctors performing complicated and expensive surgeries for no reason?

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

Placebos are typically associated with sugar pills. Fake drugs that, when taken, improve people’s symptoms just because they believe they’re taking real pharmaceuticals. However, surgery can be a placebo as well. When surgeries were first used their sole purpose was to save lives. It was obvious when operations worked as intended and when they didn’t.

However, today we’ve developed procedures that aren’t designed to to save patients, but to improve quality of life. Opening the door to whole new kind of surgeries that might take advantage of the placebo effect.

The Placebo Effect is the idea that one feels better because they received medical attention, even if that isn’t necessarily medical treatment. The most common example is the administration of a sugar pill instead of a drug. Even though there was no drug involved, patients will sometimes report that they feel better, and can walk away “cured.”

It may be difficult to think of a surgery as a placebo, because when you go under the knife, a surgeon is actually doing something. However, since surgery is so serious many people have the mindset that ‘if it’s surgery it’s meaningful.’ And that is exactly what makes surgery a great placebo. In fact, studies on the placebo effect found that invasive surgery has a stronger effect than non-invasive, like injections are better than sugar pills. This may help explain why procedures like acupuncture are sometimes no more effective than a placebo.

This video, "Just like there are sugar pills — placebo surgeries can trick patients. Are doctors performing complicated and expensive surgeries for no reason?", first appeared on seeker.com.

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