Deaths Linked Coronary Stents on the Rise
Bloomberg reports that deaths attributed to cardiac stents are on the rise as overuse continues to be a problem.
Cardiac Stents and Coronary Angioplasty
- Stents are used in a process called coronary angioplasty meant to open heart arteries that face blockages or that have have become clogged.
- The stent is a small wire mesh tube placed during the procedure to prop open the artery and keep it from narrowing again.
- It is estimated that 700,000 procedures using stents are conducted annually, about half used to increase blood flow in heart attack patients. The other half is made up of patient elective procedures where the patient is in stable condition.
The Overuse of Cardiac Stents
“Stenting belongs to one of the bleakest chapters in the history of Western medicine.” – Norton Hadler, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as published by Bloomberg
- According to an analysis conducted by Dr. David Brown, a cardiologist at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, about 200,000 unnecessary elective stent procedures are conducted every year. This is roughly two-thirds of all elective stents.
- Dr. Norton Hadler of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that the large number of unnecessary procedures can be explained by economics. Hadler points out that the interventional cardiology industry market is comparable to the GDP of many countries and alleges that the industry is not looking to reduce profits.
- Bloomberg reports that in the past decade alone, cardiac stents have been placed in the arteries of 7 million Americans, costing more than $110 billion.
- The article also reports that at least five hospitals have reached settlements with the Justice Department after facing allegations of receiving kickbacks for recommending stents and referring patients to labs for procedures.
Stent Related Deaths on the Rise
- With the increase of unnecessary coronary angioplasty procedures, the U.S. also has seen an increase in the number of patients who have suffered as a result.
- Last year, the Food and Drug Administration received 773 incident reports involving stent related deaths. This is 71 percent higher than in 2008.
- One such incident involved a Texas resident named Bruce Peterson who visited cardiologist Dr. Samuel DeMaio complaining of chest pains.
- Over an 8 month period, Dr. DeMaio put over 21 coronary stents into Mr. Peterson’s chest (5 stents in a single artery), with one procedure resulting in a torn blood vessel.
- According to a complaint filed by the Texas Medical Board, the stents resulted in a weakened heart, exposure to clots and blockages, and Mr. Peterson’s death.
- For the death of Mr. Peterson, Dr. DeMaio received a $10,000 fine and 2 years of required oversight.
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