Heart Stent Patients Needed

Hospitals have a legal obligation to make sure that Medicare patients are properly informed before heart stents are implanted in coronary arteries. For people having a heart attack, heart stents can be lifesaving.  But for people with stable coronary artery disease who are not suffering a heart attack, heart stents are often implanted without informing the patient that heart stents do not prevent future heart attacks and do not extend life in most patients with stable heart disease.

Hospitals that are paid by Medicare are required to “utilize an informed consent process that assures patients or their representatives are given the information and disclosures needed to make an informed decision about whether to consent to a procedure, intervention, or type of care that requires consent.”

Medical providers often do a poor job of providing heart stent patients with the information needed to make informed decisions. In fact, studies suggest that medical providers may be intentionally misleading patients to believe that heart stents prevent future heart attacks and extend life, knowing that this is not true.

For example, a 2010 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “Patients’ and cardiologists’ perceptions of the benefits of percutaneous coronary intervention for stable coronary disease”, concluded that “Cardiologists’ beliefs about PCI reflect trial results, but patients’ beliefs do not. Discussions with patients before PCI should better explain anticipated benefits.” While 88% of patients thought that PCI would reduce the risk of heart attack, “63% of cardiologists believed that the benefits of PCI were limited to symptom relief [i.e., relieving angina]. Of cardiologists who identified no benefit of PCI in 2 scenarios, 43% indicated that they would still proceed with PCI in these cases.”!

Patients may see a picture of a stent holding open a narrowed artery and naturally assume that the risk of a future heart attack is reduced. Unfortunately, most heart attacks are caused by soft, vulnerable plaque that builds up inside the wall of a coronary artery and suddenly ruptures, not by a narrowed artery that slowly closes.

Hospitals have strong financial incentives to recommend unnecessary heart stents. On the other hand, Medicare patients have little incentive to resist since the taxpayer is paying the bill. The result is massive overspending in the Medicare program on unnecessary heart stent operations. Overtreatment may be a major reason that the United States spends twice as much per capita as other industrialized countries on healthcare.

To curb this overtreatment problem, the Department of Justice is paying large rewards to individuals who bring successful cases. Have you received a heart stent paid for by Medicare in the last 6 years? Was the heart stent for stable coronary heart disease and not an emergency stent to open a blockage caused by a heart attack? Were you informed of studies showing that heart stents usually do not prevent future heart attacks? 

If you were not clearly informed of the limitations of heart stents and the benefits of alternatives such as the Ornish Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, please give me a call. You may be able to earn a substantial award and help assure that patients are given the information needed to make an informed decision. Learn more at stentconsent.com.

Christopher Crennen, Colorado attorney, 303-777-8743

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