Why Do So Many Cardiac Patients Get Stents? M-O-N-E-Y

There are about 700,000 cardiac stent procedures performed in the U.S. each year. This involves the implantation of a tiny metal mesh tube in a coronary artery, ostensibly to relieve a blockage. Well, sometimes. It turns out that tens of thousands of these surgeries should probably never have been performed.  Recently, Dr. Sandesh Patil became the third U.S. cardiologist convicted on federal charges for performing needless cardiac stent implantations.

Cardiac Patients Get StentsPatil is also facing lawsuits from nearly 400 patients. The hospital where he worked took a significant hit when he left. By 2009, the hospital’s stenting income from Medicare alone amounted to more than 17% of its operating budget.

Patil is far from alone. Many respected experts have complained that our nation is facing an epidemic of unnecessary stenting surgeries –driven by greed. Cardiologists have known since a 2007 study that patients with stable coronary artery disease do no better with stenting than without. A repeat study in 2012, verified these results. Why do them?  Easy money.

The average stenting procedure costs around $30,000 altogether. It takes about 45 minutes, normally.  Some surgeons can and do perform several such procedures a day. In the past decade, more than 7 million Americans have had stents implanted, at a cost of more than $110 billion. Some of these procedures were warranted, no doubt. But no one in medicine believes they all were. Experts conservatively estimate that unnecessary stent procedures cost the U.S. health care system $2.4 billion each year.  Further, patients with stents in their bodies are living with risks of complications such as blockages from coronary scar tissue, blood clots, and bleeding from anti-clotting medicine they must take for the rest of their life – any of which can be fatal. As evidence, the Food and Drug Administration reported last year that cardiac stent-related deaths had gone up by 71% from 2008.

If you or a loved one is being told you need a cardiac stent (or stents) implanted, get a second opinion. If you have undergone such a procedure and suffered complications, promptly contact our firm for a free review of your medical history and associated treatment.