In cardiovascular stenting, less is more - and much safer

Open heart

A gang of thieves may be trolling your neighborhood.

They exploit the infirm. They prey on the elderly. They do their dirty work skillfully, in broad daylight. When they’re done, their victims might never even know they’ve been hit.

In fact, the victims actually believe their lives have been saved.

Yes. These thieves are THAT good.

They wear white coats. They sling stethoscopes around their necks. And if you’ve got a beating heart and health insurance, you might be their next target.

Beyond outrage

Heart specialists use balloon angioplasty to open narrowed arteries. The doctor inserts a stent to keep the artery open. Then he removes the balloon.

Simple. With a straight face, doctors will lure you in. They’ll tell you it’s a routine procedure. Nothing to worry about. Happens hundreds of times a day.

Which is hundreds too many.

Last summer, an inquiry revealed that heart doctors in Florida had ripped off thousands of patients with unnecessary cardiac procedures. And this wasn’t some rogue heart practice with a few doctors. It occurred in the largest for-profit hospital chain in the U.S.

Investigators said more than 40% of angioplasty cases were completely unnecessary.

A few years ago, another health care system paid out more than $50 million to settle allegations of unnecessary cardiac procedures in California.

Earlier this month, a community hospital in Ohio agreed to a similar settlement.

Ohio. Florida. California. These cases span years, and span the continent. This is NOT an isolated scam. It’s happening right now in other hospitals, other states. Maybe right in your neighborhood.

Now, that’s bad enough. It’s criminal! But that’s not even the worst of it. These unnecessary procedures often produce complications. So they put many patients at risk for only one reason… To jack up profits.

So where are the front page headlines? These scandals should be shouted from the rooftops! Instead, they’re slithering under the radar. Patients are still vulnerable because they’re not getting the message.

In one survey, nearly 9 in 10 patients said they believed angioplasty reduced heart attack risk. Almost three-quarters said they believed they would have had a heart attack within five years without it.

Now look at responses from cardiologists…

More than 60% said they used angioplasty simply to relieve symptoms. Nothing more.

But MOST amazing… When surveyors gave two hypothetical scenarios where angioplasty provided ZERO benefits, more than 40% of the doctors said they would still go ahead with the procedure.

How could they possibly justify such wildly irresponsible malpractice! They’re literally robbing patients. They’re defrauding Medicare. They’re frightening the weak and taking their money.

If your doc recommends an angioplasty, INSIST on a second opinion. And if possible, get it from a specialist who has a track record for using angioplasty sparingly.

Unfortunately, he might be very hard to find.

Sources:
“U.S. Settles Accusations That Doctors Overtreated” Reed Abelson, New York Times, 1/4/13, nytimes.com
“Hospital Chain Inquiry Cited Unnecessary Cardiac Work” Reed Abelson and Julie Creswell, New York Times, 8/6/13, nytimes.com
“Drug Therapy More Cost-Effective than Angioplasty for Diabetic Patients with Heart Disease” Science Centric, 11/18/09, sciencecentric.com
“Patients’ and Cardiologists’ Perceptions of the Benefits of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention for Stable Coronary Disease” Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 153, No. 5, 9/7/10, annals.org
“Stent Safety Concerns Near Boiling Point” Matthew Herper, Forbes, 9/8/06, forbes.com

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