September 30, 2013 — Bloomberg reports that at least 773 deaths and 4,125 non-fatal injuries were associated with cardiac stents last year, according to the FDA adverse event database. Since 2008, reports of death have increased 71% and injury reports increased 33%.
Today, over 700,000 people are implanted with a cardiac stent every year. The devices are implanted with a catheter inserted in a patient’s groin and guided into the heart. Once in place, a doctor inflates the stent and uses it to prop open a patient’s coronary arteries.
There is little dispute about the benefit of the stents for people who have recently had a heart attack. However, for people in stable condition, stents are a controversial topic. The benefit is unclear, but the risks are life-threatening — bleeding, blood clots, lacerated arteries, and death.
In 2012, Dr. Mehmood Patel of Lafayette, Louisiana began a 10-year prison sentence for making millions of dollars in a scheme to implant thousands of unnecessary cardiac stents.
Unnecessary Stent Lawsuits
Bloomberg reports that a growing number of patients have filed unnecessary stent lawsuits against hospitals and doctors. Since 2010, at least 1,500 people have received letters from hospitals informing them that their stent may be unnecessary. The University of Pennsylvania Health System sent 700 letters in April.
Over 361 people have filed lawsuits against St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. One plaintiff, Rhonda McClure, had 18 catheter procedures and now suffers from chest pain and shortness of breath. Another plaintiff, Gary Crabtree, was awarded $240,000 in compensation for the death of his wife. She died of an infection caused by a torn artery during a stent procedure.
Studies of Unnecessary Cardiac Stents
- JAMA Internal Medicine, July 2011 — Out of 500,000 cardiac stent implants, up to 49% were unnecessary, with 12% classified as “inappropriate” and 38% “uncertain.”
- Journal of the American Medical Association, May 2011 — Out of 467,000 people who received a stent implant, just 44% tried lifestyle changes or medication before undergoing the procedure.