New on the list of operations that have fallen into disfavor is appendectomies. Four trials involving 900 patients with appendicitis found almost two-thirds of them (63 per cent) were successfully treated with antibiotics, and avoided the complications of surgery.
* Tonsillectomy, the removal of tonsils to prevent repeated sore throats. More than 200,000 were carried out every year in the 1950s, but only 49,000 in 2009. There is no evidence that it works.
* Grommets, or valves inserted in the ear drum to treat inflammation of the inner ear. Most children grow out of it naturally.
* A mastectomy for breast cancer. Today, many surgeons remove only the lump, and survival is just as good.
* Hysterectomy for fibroids or benign growths in the womb can now be treated by an injection.
* Surgery for stomach ulcers can now be treated by an over-the-counter drug.