Defensive medicine practices among gastroenterologists in Lombardy: Between lawsuits and the economic crisis

Luca Elli, Andrea Tenca, Marco Soncini, Giancarlo Spinzi, Elisabetta Buscarini, Dario Conte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Defensive medicine is becoming more frequent behaviour and has an impact on the economic 'health' of national healthcare systems. Aim: The aim of this study was to clarify the impact of defensive medicine on gastroenterological practices in Lombardy. Methods: Gastroenterologists attending the Lombardy Annual Gastroenterological Conference received a questionnaire based on multiple choice tests and visual analogue scales. The questionnaire was divided into three parts evaluating the respondent's characteristics, the number of procedures prescribed, and the percentage of those performed with a defensive purpose. Results: Sixty-four of 107 participants (60%) completed the questionnaire, 94% of whom reported practising defensive medicine. The percentage of defensively requested procedures amounted to 18% of all digestive endoscopies, 8.9% of abdominal ultrasonography scans, 4.9% of abdominal computed tomography or magnetic resonance scans, and 12.2% of all consultations. The total number of defensive procedures prescribed per month by the participants was 878, and 31.7% of the performed procedures (n=4897) were reported to defensively based. On the basis of the 2012 regional reimbursement fees, the yearly cost of defensive procedures prescribed and/or performed by all gastroenterologists in Lombardy was estimated to be € 8,637,835. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that defensive medicine profoundly affects current medical practices among gastroenterologists, and has a considerable economic impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-473
Number of pages5
JournalDigestive and Liver Disease
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Defensive medicine
  • Endoscopy
  • Gastroenterology
  • Health systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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