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More Medical Waste: Does A $6000 Flashlight Improve Patient Outcomes?

So I’m rounding in the ICU the other day when I came upon this new hospital medical device.  It’s called a pupillometer.  What does this pupillometer do?  It  measures subtle changes in the light reflex of the pupil to help take the physical exam to the next level of precision.

Or eliminate it, depending on how you look at it.  What used to be a basic physical exam skill is now being replaced by a $6000 piece of medical technology that can distinguish tiny changes in pupil size. Now the real questions remain.  Has this pupillometer device gone through the rigors of randomized trials in the ICU to define whether a  $6000 flashlight changes outcomes or mortality?   And if not, how do we allow medications to require such testing but not the technology that often changes nothing and simply makes health care more expensive.

The way I see things, if I’m trying to decide whether someone’s pupils constrict 1% vs 3% vs 10%, I’m getting a palliative care consult instead and putting the pupillometer back in my holster.

First the vein light.  Now the pupillomter.   And I thought the super bright LED pen light was all the rage.

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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