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Overuse of cardiac stents implicated in deaths nationwide

A disturbing trend in cardiac medicine affects many people nationwide, including those in Wisconsin. Inserting stents into stable patients has become common, yet stents, while undoubtedly lifesaving in the case of heart attacks, may, in fact, be harmful to many patients. Bloomberg News reports that cardiac stents were associated with 773 deaths in 2012, a number that is 71 percent higher than it was in 2008.

Doctors may have a financial motive to use stents when they are not medically necessary. According to Bloomberg, some studies have indicated that patient lifestyle changes or drug-based treatment could be as beneficial as a stent, making some insertions a medical malpractice concern. Indeed, some have estimated that two thirds of elective cardiac stents are unnecessary. Last year, these questionable procedures totaled around 200,000.

Patients with cardiac stents experience increased risk for blood clots or blockages associated with scar tissue. In addition, the required anti-clotting medication could put patients at risk for free bleeding. The tide is turning, however. Since the Food and Drug Administration investigated their overuse, the number of stent procedures has been declining. In addition, over 1,500 patients received letters from hospitals indicating that their stents were unnecessary.

One reason stents are so widely used is that they can relieve chest pain quickly. However, studies have shown that this paint relief only lasts for about two years. Patients who are concerned about a questionable stent may benefit from learning more about medical malpractice. An attorney who specializes in malpractice and personal injury cases may be able to grasp the serious nature of the case and its effect on the patient's quality of life.

Source: Bloomberg Business Week, "Deaths Linked to Cardiac Stents Rise as Overuse Seen", Peter Waldman, David Armstrong and Sydney P. Freed, September 26, 2013

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