We talked before about how tests can be a waste of time, money, and effort. However, sometimes tests can be extremely helpful. There are endless examples of test results that have changed a patient’s treatment in truly meaningful — sometimes even life-saving — ways. Here are some examples of how tests can be useful:
- To screen for potential problems. A great example is the newborn screen sent soon after a baby’s birth. The point is to identify diseases that are treatable, relatively common, and cost-effective. It doesn’t make sense to spend $100,000 to look for a 1-in-a-million disease that we can’t do a thing about. But for diseases where we can really make a difference in a child’s life by intervening early, it’s extremely valuable information.
- To rule out dangerous conditions. A child with a head injury may need a CT scan to look for brain bleeding. A child with severe abdominal pain may require imaging, blood tests, or even a surgical procedure to look for life-threatening problems. Sure, these procedures all carry risks, but sometimes those risks are worth taking to rule out (or confirm) a serious diagnosis.
- To guide treatment. This is one of the most common reasons that doctors order tests. This may mean deciding when to treat with antibiotics, when to do a blood transfusion, or whether to make a number of other decisions. Pediatricians often order tests to look for strep throat, urinary tract infections, or other problems. The assumption, of course, is that the result will affect the doctor’s decision about whether to treat a condition, or what treatment to use.
- To establish a prognosis. Prognosis is a step beyond diagnosis. It’s not what a patient has, but what we should expect. It can be as grim as life expectancy from cancer, or as mundane as how long a fever can be expected last from a cold. But when it’s important for us to know where a patient is headed, sometimes the right test can help answer the question.
- To get treatments covered. In an age when insurance companies control pretty much everything we do, sometimes we already know the diagnosis and what treatment we should use–we just have to prove it to get the treatment covered. It’s ridiculous, but I don’t make the rules.
- Just to give us an answer. Sometimes, it’s just nice to have an answer, even if there’s nothing we can do about it. And even if it won’t change a darn thing. We’re all human, and sometimes we just want to know why. And as long as the test doesn’t carry a high level of risk, it’s a perfectly good reason.
No matter what we’re testing for, the most important question to ask is, “What difference will the answer make?” The next important question is whether that difference is worth the cost, pain, and risk of the procedure required to perform the test. Every situation is different, and the fact that a test exists doesn’t mean we should necessarily order it without taking a look at all the variables. Fortunately, as a parent, your job isn’t to decide what tests are necessary — it’s to find a Cape Coral pediatrician like MacKoul Pediatrics that you trust to help you make informed decisions about your child’s health. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s health, don’t hesitate to give MacKoul Pediatrics Cape Coral a call at 239-573-2001.
And in case you missed it, be sure to check out The Shocking Truth About Lab Tests: Part 1
MacKoul Pediatrics is an amazing local pediatrics office in Cape Coral, FL where caring, compassionate doctors and nurses work with you to keep your children as healthy as possible. MacKoul cares for children from birth to college age, from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, and beyond.
July 19, 2016