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Drug-coated stents: warning for Maryland patients

The iconic Dr. Welby style of medical practice is a very nice concept. It's also more Hollywood make-believe than reality. As much as we like to think of medicine as some amazing mix of art and science, the fact is that it is a business. It runs on the fuel of the dollar and its practitioners face the same pressures all Marylanders do, to work smarter; not harder. That means find a system and work it.

The problem, though, is that the risks are too high. Where human life is involved, taking the route of greatest convenience isn't always the route to the best health outcome. The result of doctors failing to properly assess the risk-reward ratio of a given procedure and making proper recommendations amounts to medical negligence that can create undue health and financial issues for patents.

These situations can be avoided and they should be. When they aren't, for whatever reason, individuals have a right to seek compensation for the suffering that results.

One such treatment that is coming in for particular scrutiny right now is the use of drug-eluting, or drug-coated, cardiac stents. These are the little wire mesh tubes that are surgically inserted into a coronary artery to overcome blockages. The drug coating is supposed to prevent plaque buildup from reoccurring.

In recent years, use of these kinds of stents has exploded. But a study published recently in the "Archives of Internal Medicine" says it's gotten to a point where doctors seem to be using them unnecessarily, apparently out of expediency.

The study looked at data from 1.5 million angioplasty patients across more than 1,100 hospitals in the U.S. It found that in more than 75 percent of cases, patients received drug-eluting stents, even though most of them were rated as being at low risk of likely experiencing a re-blockage.

The study's authors say that not only are the drug-coated stents overused, but patients who get them have to take anti-clotting drugs on a long-term basis afterward, increasing their risk of bleeding out if injured.

They say if doctors would just cut the use of the drug-coated stents by half in just the low-risk patients, they would save more than $200 million in healthcare costs.

Interestingly, what the reduced risk of complications due to the stent misuse might be apparently wasn't a factor looked at in the study.

Source:, " Stent Decisions Not Tied to Risk," July 17, 2012

  • Situations such as those mentioned in this post are among those that our firm handles. To learn more about this area of our practice, visit our Maryland medical malpractice page.

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