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Too Many Stents At HCA Hospitals Lead To Federal Investigation

Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute is one hospital among the for-profit HCA chain of hospitals under scrutiny for overutilizing cardiac stents in heart patients.

Implanting a stent when it is not necessary can actually worsen a patient's condition and lead to coronary artery disease. When doctors fail to do no harm, the result may be medical malpractice. A stent is used to open partially blocked arteries, protecting the heart from blockages that can result in lost blood flow and cause a heart attack.

A nurse who worked at Lawnwood between 2007 and 2008 blew the whistle on the hospital for what he believed were more than a dozen unnecessary stent implantations. An internal investigation conducted by HCA agreed with the nurse's claims, noting that unnecessary procedures were in fact performed in the Lawnwood cath lab.

There are over 160 hospitals in the HCA chain; at least 10 have been investigated for overusing stenting procedures when they were not medically necessary or advised by a patient's symptoms. HCA hospitals in Florida have been the primary focus of the investigation.

In its own defense, HCA asserts that the number of stent procedures along with other cardiac catheterizations performed at member hospitals have actually declined over the last decade. HCA also relies on the debate as to when a stent is medically warranted and when it is not to back up the judgment of its heart doctors in implanting the number of stents that they have.

Miami's Cedars Medical Center and the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point were also noted as having performed unnecessary cardiac procedures on heart patients, according to HCA's own investigation.

Source: TCPalm, "Lawnwood hospital under investigation for possibly performing unnecessary heart procedures," Augst 7, 2012

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