The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers of Passen & Powell recently discussed an Illinois appellate court’s ruling that evidence of financial motive can be relevant and admissible in medical negligence cases. As news of doctors performing unnecessary stent implants for financial gain continues to emerge, the importance and implications of this ruling become increasingly clear.
In a stent implant procedure, a pliable mesh tube is placed into an patient’s artery (the large blood vessels which carry oxidized blood away from the heart). Stents are implanted to unclog blocked arteries, thus avoiding later problems such as heart attack, and improving the long-term prognosis for patients with heart disease.
Stent implants are considered an effective treatment, and are now a very common treatment for heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, over 1.2 million such surgeries are now performed each year in the U.S. Like any surgery, however, particularly heart surgery, stent implants are dangerous, and complications, including wrongful death, are possible. Unnecessary implants, in particular, have potential complications including the formation of blood clots, heart attack at a later date, and repeated surgeries. Inserting a stent also involves the use of additional contrast dye, a product that can cause kidney failure.
If you or a family member have had any of these complications after a stent implant, it is important to investigate whether your stent implant was a medically proper procedure. If you suffered complications from a surgery that should not have been performed, you may have a cause of action. An experienced Chicago personal injury attorney can help you to investigate your particular circumstances and collect any compensation you may be entitled to.
Stent implants are extremely profitable. A single stent implant can make up to $15,000 for the performing hospital. To qualify for a stent implant, however, a patient must have at least 75% blockage in the artery. More than 40% of Americans over the age of 60 have some blockage, but most of these individuals are not candidates for surgery. Indeed, those with blockages of 50% or less are not only not candidates for surgery, but their blockages are considered medically insignificant. To determine the extent of the blockage, a cardiologist often performs only a catheterization, where a catheter is inserted into the arteries to inject dye, and x-rays are taken. The doctor then reviews the films from that procedure – usually by himself in the lab.
At the center of the controversy over stent implants is Dr. Mark G. Midei, formerly the chief of cardiology at St. Joseph’s hospital in Towson, Maryland. It has recently come to light that Dr. Midei performed hundreds of stent implants on patients who were not candidates for surgery – many of whom had no heart disease at all. After a federal investigation was opened concerning St. Joseph’s cardiology practice, St. Joseph’s hired an independent group of cardiologists who are reviewing the hospital’s files on surgeries performed by Dr. Midei.
The team is still reviewing files to determine exactly how far Dr. Midei’s misconduct reaches. Thus far, the hospital has identified a total of 538 patients who may have been subjected to unnecessary heart surgery. These patients have now received letters from St. Joseph’s informing them that their stent implant procedures may have been unwarranted and that they may even have been free of heart disease entirely. Additional patients identified by the hospital’s ongoing review will also receive this letter. Any patient who receives such a letter, from St. Joseph’s or another hospital, may have legal claims. Our top Chicago medical malpractice attorneys can get to the bottom of what happened in your case, and assist you in seeking the relief you deserve.
After a stent implant, a patient still faces a lifetime of treatment for heart disease. For instance, many post-implant patients are put on blood thinners such as Plavix, which can cost up to $150 a month and come with their own set of potential side effects and complications. Many patients also make lifestyle changes when faced with what they believe to be life-threatening heart disease. Patients will be appalled to learn that this treatment and these changes were not necessary.
Moreover, a recent study suggests that many Americans are receiving unnecessary and potentially dangerous stent procedures. A Swedish study revealed that using only a catheterization to determine arterial blockage (as Dr. Midei did) is far inferior to using a blood flow test, which is done with the catheterization so that only one insertion is needed, and measures any decreased blood pressure after the point of blockage, to see if the blockage is actually causing problems. When a blood-flow test is used in combination with catheterization, there is a 30-40% decrease in post-surgery “cardiac events” – including death, heart attack, and later or repeat surgeries (either additional stents or bypass surgery). This additional testing costs only $700, a negligible amount when compared with the cost of a stent implant procedure.
Passen & Powell’s top-rated personal injury lawyers believe that the evidence of unnecessary stent implants that has already come to light is just the tip of the iceberg. We expect that in the months to come, many more patients will learn that they were needlessly subjected to this dangerous procedure for the benefit of doctors and hospitals. If you think you are one of those patients, we can help.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.