Since 2009, there has been a rising concern that doctors nationwide are performing unnecessary stent procedures. Stents are small mesh tubes that are used to keep narrowed blood vessels open. The goal is to help protect patients from complications of narrowed blood vessels, which may include elevated blood pressure and its consequences, such as heart attack or failure, stroke, and systemic problems, ranging from the eyes to the kidneys. Stents can save lives when properly used. However, stents have their own risks. Rarely patients can experience cardiac arrest or stroke as a result of their procedure. Stent patients are also at risk for life-threatening blood clots, and must take blood-thinning medications for at least a year after stent surgery. Recent allegations point to the possibility that some doctors have been implanting unnecessary stents.
Unnecessary stenting is not only dangerous, it’s also a very lucrative form of medical malpractice and fraud. A hospital may earn as much as $10,000 per stent procedure, and doctors accused of unnecessary stenting have raked in millions for themselves and their hospitals.
The most recent allegations of unnecessary stenting surround a Texas cardiologist who is under investigation because some of his patients have an alarming number of stents. Several of his patients have been implanted with more than 30 stents. The average number of stents per patient nationwide is 1.5. At this time, two Maryland doctors are under investigation for superfluous stenting. One has been indicted on charges that he defrauded Medicare of several million dollars for hundreds of unnecessary stent procedures, along with unnecessary supporting tests and follow-up prescriptions.
In one prominent case, a Louisiana cardiologist was convicted in late 2008 and sentenced to ten years in prison for performing unnecessary medical procedures including stenting. The doctor was found guilty of forging medical records–including falsifying test results and symptoms reported by patients–to support the use of the procedures on 75 of his patients.
Not all of these cases are cut and dried. For the Texas surgeon now under investigation, many of the patients he treated were referred to him because they were complex cases that may have required more stents than the average treatment. One of the Baltimore surgeons, Dr. mark Midei, whose name is becoming synonymous with the issue of unnecessary stenting, is suing his hospital after it mailed a statement to all his patients–nearly 600–that they may have had unnecessary procedures without first investigating the individual cases to determine whether some might have been necessary procedures.
The hard question to answer here is whether these cases represent an appropriate use of a life-saving medical technology or medical malpractice of the worst variety: a doctor deliberately putting patients’ lives at risk for profit. Likely, it is a little of each, and determining the truth of any individual case requires a review by medical experts.
If you think you or a loved one may have been given an inappropriate treatment, such as unnecessary stenting, we can review your case to determine whether you are eligible for compensation for your injuries. Please contact Robert W. Kerpsack, CO LPA today for a free case evaluation.