Mythmaking in medical education and medical practice

Elinore Kaufman, Tara Lagu*, Nicholas S. Hannon, Jahnavi Sagi, Michael B. Rothberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Despite the emergence of evidence-based medicine, gaps in medical knowledge are filled by tradition, common sense, and experience, giving rise to medical myths. Methods: We explored the origins of and evidence related to four medical myths: patients with shellfish allergies should not receive intravenous contrast, patients with atrial fibrillation of less than 48 hours' duration do not require anticoagulation before cardioversion, patients with suspected meningitis should have a computed tomography (CT) scan before a lumbar puncture, and patients with respiratory disease should not receive β-blockers. We conducted a literature review to describe each myth's origins and the quality of supporting evidence. Results: All patients with allergies, including but not limited to seafood allergies, are at an increased risk for anaphylactoid reactions to radiocontrast. No conclusive studies indicate that patients with atrial fibrillation of less than 48 hours' duration do not require anticoagulation before cardioversion. A CT scan before lumbar puncture in suspected acute bacterial meningitis is a clinically inefficient precaution. β-blockers can be safely used in patients with respiratory disease and may even prevent cardiac events in these patients. Conclusions These familiar myths have maintained prominent roles in medical thinking because they represent wisdom passed down from eminent sources, they teach physiology and medical skills, and they offer physicians a sense of control in the face of uncertainty. In addition to providing scientific evidence, changing physicians' practice requires acknowledging that even meticulous care cannot always avert bad outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-226
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Internal Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Clinical skills training
  • Evidence based medicine
  • Medical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Mythmaking in medical education and medical practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this