These are the common treatments that might have a limited benefit to patients


So it turns out that many common treatments for a wide range of ailments might actually be of little or no benefit to us at all.

As part of a new Choosing Wisely UK campaign - which aims to help patients and medics make the right decisions about care - the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) has recorded a list of treatments and tests with the gentle warning that "more doesn't always mean better".

And here they are:

A woman drinking alcohol
(Yui Mok/PA)


Administering fluids into a vein of a person under the influence of alcohol doesn't make them feel better any quicker.

Back pain

Investigating back pain by X-ray is unlikely to be necessary if a patient has back pain but no other concerning features (such as compression of the nerve roots).

Blood transfusion

Blood transfusions should only be given if really necessary (such as in cases of major bleeding or severe anaemia) and if no alternatives are available (such as iron treatment).

Broken bones in the feet

Small fractures of the base of the fifth metatarsal - a bone on the outside of the foot - do not usually need to be put into a plaster cast as they will heal just as quickly in a removable boot.

Calcium testing

It isn't necessary to undergo calcium testing - used when there are symptoms of kidney stones, bone disease or nerve-related disorders - if a patient has had one within the last three months, unless they have undergone major surgery or become seriously unwell.


In patients with advanced cancer, the use of chemotherapy where the benefit is likely to be small and the harm may be big should be carefully considered.

A child with a broken wrist

Children with broken wrists

A removable splint, rather than a plaster cast, can be used to treat small fractures on one side of the wrist - known as "buckle fractures".

Children with breathing problems

Acute bronchiolitis should not be treated with medications called bronchodilators, which cause a widening of the small breathing tubes in the lung, as they have been shown to have little or no effect.

Children with constipation

For children with chronic constipation, changes to diet and lifestyle should be considered first to relieve the symptoms. If this doesn't work, Polyethylene Glycol should be considered rather than lactulose.

Children with epilepsy

Medications such as Midazolam and Lorazepam - which can be dissolved in the mouth and so are preferable to others meds which are administered by a suppository - are just as effective and easier to administer.

A child lying on its tummy

Children with flat head syndrome

Helmet therapy is not effective in the treatment of plagiocephaly, aka flat head syndrome. Adjusting the child's sleep patterns, spending time on their tummy (aka tummy time) and physiotherapy should be considered instead.

Contraception coil

Women fitted with the coil to prevent pregnancy should be taught to regularly check its placement by feeling the threads inside the vagina, and only seek professional advice when they can't feel them.

Cuts and grazes

Studies have shown that drinking-quality tap water is just as effective for cleaning and washing cuts and grazes as sterile saline solution.


People displaying symptoms of dementia (or a person who cares for someone displaying those symptoms) should speak to a doctor for advice as routine screening programmes don't exist.

A woman showing signs of depression
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)


Prescribed antidepressants that don't feel effective should be changed, or another medication should be added to work in parallel with the initial prescribed drug.

End-of-life support

Being maintained on life support will sometimes not result in a meaningful recovery, and so the person caring for someone in this situation - or the patient - should discuss the goals that can be achieved through further treatment.

End-of-life medicines

A person who is particularly frail or has less than a year to live should try to decrease the number of medicines they take to only those used to control their symptoms.

Minor head injury

Minor head injuries do not normally require medical imaging.

High blood pressure

Medication should only be considered to treat high blood pressure and prevent heart disease and stroke if the patient has other risk factors and blood pressure readings consistently above 140-159/90-99.

Doctor checking blood pressure

High cholesterol

People who have been prescribed statins to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) at the recommended dose do not need to have cholesterol levels routinely checked unless they have had pre-existing conditions such as a heart attack, stroke or a family tendency towards problems with high lipids.

Joint dislocations

Some injuries, such as hip and shoulder dislocations, can be treated in A&E with sedation medications, rather than with a general anaesthetic in an operating theatre.


Blood tests are not normally needed to diagnose the menopause in women over 45.


Women planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant should not be prescribed sodium valproate for the treatment of epilepsy, migraine or bipolar disorder unless other medications are not working. But if it is prescribed, it should only be after a full discussion of the risks and benefits to the woman and her unborn child.


Medicines like aspirin, heparin or progesterone should not be used to reduce the risk of further miscarriages if a woman has experienced unexplained or recurrent miscarriages.

Ovarian cysts

Follow-up appointments or protein Ca-125 checks are unlikely to be required if a woman has a simple ovarian cyst of less than 5cm in diameter and has not undergone the menopause.

Polycystic ovaries

Blood tests to look for the typical hormone pattern should be conducted before further investigations to see if a woman has polycystic ovaries (when the ovaries work differently to others).

A pregnant woman
(Andrew Matthews/PA)

Pregnant women with blood clots

Aspirin is not recommended as a way of reducing the chances of developing blood clots (thromboprophylaxis) in pregnant women.

Pregnant women with big babies

Ultrasound scans should not be used to check if a baby is bigger than normal for its gestational age unless a woman has diabetes or develops gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Pregnant women in labour

Electronic monitoring of a baby's heart is only needed during labour if a woman has a higher than normal risk of complications.

Prostate PSA testing

Screening for a specific protein produced by the prostate (Prostate Specific Antigen - PSA) does not lead to a longer life unless a patient is at risk of prostate cancer because of race or family history.


Scans of the head (such as CT or MRI) can only be used to help diagnose psychosis in specific situations and are not necessary or useful in every case.


Patients with adult schizophrenia - or their advocate - should consider whether medications taken by mouth or longer-acting medications given by injection are most appropriate.

Doctors in surgery

People considering surgery

Patients should be informed of their options and given the chance to discuss potential benefits and harm of having the procedure when considering having surgery.

People having an operation

Day surgery should be considered as the default option and is suitable in many cases, except for complex procedures.

People preparing for surgery

Patients don't need to go into hospital the day before surgery if they have had the appropriate preparation, tests and discussions with their doctor beforehand.

Vaginal discharge

Most vaginal discharge is completely normal and does not require being seen by a healthcare professional - but in patients experiencing frequent episodes of vaginal thrush, the skin around the vagina should be examined by a specialist nurse or doctor who should rule out other conditions rather than start another course of thrush treatment.