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Hundreds of Md. Heart Patients Receive Unnecessary Implants

This is one of our editors' picks from our ongoing roundup of Investigations Elsewhere.

Last year, St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Md., celebrated the placement of its 100,000th coronary stent since 1980. But maybe the hospital has been a little too busy: According to an internal investigation reported by The Baltimore Sun, 369 of those stents were apparently implanted in the arteries of patients who didn't need them.

Hospital officials say the review turned up just one suspected culprit: Dr. Mark Midei, who has been barred from practicing at the hospital since last summer, according to the Sun.

Most clinical guidelines, along with Medicare reimbursement rules, require that an artery be at least 70 percent blocked before a stent, which opens up clogged arteries, is placed. But the Sun found cases at St. Joseph where stents had been placed in patients with insignificant blockages. One 69-year-old man was told he had a 95 percent blockage; the review found it to be closer to 10 percent.

Stent implantations often cost upwards of $10,000, according to the Sun. Afterward, patients are required to take blood thinners.

The hospital's CEO Jeffrey Norman told the Sun: "Like anything in healthcare, heart care is a team effort. And if there's any one individual on the team who isn't performing at the highest level, you take action, as we have in this case. We're confident that we still provide the highest quality care."

Midei issued a statement saying "I am confident that I have always acted in the best interest of my patients, and when all the facts are presented, I will continue providing quality medical care to my patients.”

But according to the Sun: "Doctors and hospitals in other parts of the country who placed stents when that blockage threshold wasn't met have faced lawsuits, fines and even prison time."

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