All posts by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.

Kidney Cancer and Incidentalomas

Kidney cancer diagnoses are increasing but there has been no increase in mortality or rate of metastases. Kidney cancer is most often diagnosed as an incidental finding on a CT scan that was done for unrelated reasons. Treatment may not always be needed.

/ February 12, 2019

Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches

Caffeine is not addictive. Regular users of caffeine can develop tolerance and mild physical dependence, and sudden withdrawal can cause headaches and other symptoms (but only in half the population). This is does not qualify as addiction.

/ February 5, 2019

Misleading Ad for Apeaz

An ad for Apeaz in Discover Magazine is misleading. Its active ingredient may provide some temporary relief of pain, but the claims in the ad are overblown. It is not a new blockbuster drug or an anesthetic.

/ January 29, 2019

Just How Addictive Are Opioids?

There is an opioid epidemic, with increasing overdose deaths from both prescription drugs and illegal drugs. Just how addictive are opioids? It appears they are safe when used appropriately, but there is a high risk of abuse, and they are deadly when misused, especially OxyContin.

/ January 22, 2019

Critical Thinking in Medicine

Cognitive Errors and Diagnostic Mistakes is a superb new guide to critical thinking in medicine written by Jonathan Howard. It explains how our psychological foibles regularly bias and betray us, leading to diagnostic mistakes. Learning critical thinking skills is essential but difficult. Every known cognitive error is illustrated with memorable patient stories.

/ January 15, 2019

Osteopenia: When Does Decreased Bone Density Become a Disease Requiring Treatment?

Osteoporosis is routinely treated with bisphosphonates to prevent fractures. A new study suggests that osteopenia should be treated too. But questions remain.

/ January 8, 2019
Autism-brain-lead

Autism Revisited

Is there an autism epidemic? Why was autism rare in the past? This book tries to answer those questions with a historical and sociological approach and suggests deinstitutionalization was a key factor.

/ January 1, 2019

Charlatans for Christmas

A novel by Robin Cook is a great read with a medical theme. It brings up some serious questions about quality control and medical education.

/ December 25, 2018

Vertigo Voodoo: A Crazy-Sounding Cure That Actually Works

A sequence of positional changes sounds like voodoo, but is actually an effective way to cure benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).

/ December 18, 2018

BladderMax: Fake News and Outrageous Headlines

A newspaper ad for BladderMax is disguised as a news story reporting "the end of bladder leakages." The information is inaccurate and the headlines are preposterous.

/ December 11, 2018