Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Value Is There in the Yearly Physical Examination?

What value is there in the annual physical examination? This is a controversial area and the data to support the health and mortality benefit of a yearly check up are sparse.

Here is a related article in the New York Times and a systematic review (open access) in BMJ by the Cochrane Library.

To be clear, there is little controversy about the importance of regular exams for well babies, children and pregnant women, and the value of specific exams, like a Pap smear for sexually active women and a colonoscopy for people over 50. The Cochrane review of randomized trials suggests that general health checks in adults may not reduce morbidity or mortality from disease, particularly cardiovascular disease or malignancies. 

Like much of what we do in medicine, the general health check is not supported by by strong clinical data. 

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