Crimes of the Heart
The Bloomberg News series "Crimes of the Heart" probes the unnecessary use of cardiac stents in the U.S., revealing rising reports of deaths and injuries, and detailing the fraud and financial incentives that have promoted more stenting surgery. Stents have been used to prop open the arteries of about 7 million Americans in the past decade at a cost of more than $110 billion. At least a million of these recipients didn’t need the tiny metal mesh tubes to treat their stable heart disease, according to medical researchers. They are living with risks of blood clots, bleeding and new blockages from the unneeded implants. Bloomberg used thousands of pages of court and regulatory records and interviews with dozens of cardiologists and patients to identify the victims and put a human face on a little-examined health hazard.
A southern Kentucky hospital system paid kickbacks to cardiologists to refer patients for chest-cracking bypass surgeries and other cardiac procedures that the patients didn’t need, according to a federal whistle-blower suit that the company settled yesterday.
When Bruce Peterson left the U.S. Postal Service after 24 years delivering mail, he started a travel agency. It was his dream career, his wife Shirlee said. Then he went to see cardiologist Samuel DeMaio for chest pain.
Najam Azmat snaked a catheter on a guide wire into Judi Gary’s groin as he tried to insert a stent in an artery supplying blood to her pelvis and right leg. On an X-ray monitor near where Gary lay, nurses saw blood leakages. The wire seemed to be in the wrong place, nurse Evan Gourley told Azmat. Everything was fine, the vascular surgeon replied. It wasn’t.
An Appalachian Kentucky hospital that’s been among the nation’s leaders in the rate of coronary stenting is under federal investigation for implanting the metal mesh devices needlessly, according to its spokesman.
Former President George W. Bush’s decision to allow doctors to use a stent to clear a blocked heart artery, performed absent symptoms, is reviving a national debate on the best way to treat early cardiac concerns.