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Periodic Health Exams in General Population Don't Reduce Mortality Risk — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
November 21, 2012

Periodic Health Exams in General Population Don't Reduce Mortality Risk

General wellness checks to identify disease risk factors and symptoms in healthy people appear to have no effect on mortality, according to a Cochrane meta-analysis in BMJ.

Researchers analyzed the results of 14 randomized trials comprising some 180,000 adults (geriatric trials were excluded). Patients were randomized either to health checks conducted in a primary care or community setting or to no health checks. The exams were not associated with a reduction in all-cause, cardiovascular, or cancer-related mortality.

An editorialist concludes: "The history of health promotion through routine health checks has been one of glorious failure, but generations of well meaning clinicians and public health physicians struggle to allow themselves to believe it. We need to reinforce the message lest some enthusiast reinvent the health check in another guise."

Reader Comments (3)

Kelly Sparks, PA-C

It may more difficult to quantify the benifits of regular health checks and developing a relationship with a health care provider than mortality, but let not one disregard how those periodic pauses in patient's live help them to live a healthier life, unless you are the one solely paying the bill. I find the commentary on this study lacking empathy for patients or respect of the provider patient relationship.

Competing interests: None declared

Kylie H Vannaman

My question then is when do you discuss all the health maintenance screening options and recommendations? If this study says that regular health checks have no effect on mortality, is it not taking into account the morbidity and mortality prevented by things like colonoscopies and pap smears (that are discussed in these visits)? I see geriatric trials are excluded...

Competing interests: None declared

Ghaleb H. Daouk, M.D.

While the statistics may truly indicate a general lack of effectiveness in final disease outcome, there are no real controls to study illness severity in populations who have not received regular checkups. It's not about mortality alone.. It's about morbidity and general wellness.

Competing interests: None declared

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