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Eight Pennsylvania Patients Sue for Unnecessary Coronary Stents

Eight patients have now started lawsuits against Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, Penn., for implanting coronary stents that the hospital has admitted may not have been necessary. Early in 2010, physicians advised the hospital that the implantation of cardiac stents at the facility's cardiac catherization laboratory was excessive. A stent is a small wire mesh device used to keep open the arteries of patients with heart disease. A subsequent investigation by the hospital revealed that 141 of the patients who underwent surgery to implant the stents in 2010 did not have enough blockage in their arteries to require the surgery.

Last year, up to 2,000 stent procedures were performed at the hospital. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, more than 750 of these procedures were performed by two cardiologists, who have since voluntarily left the hospital. The hospital claims that none of the 141 patients were harmed by the procedures and has offered counseling and free medical care to them as a precaution. The costs of the operations will also be refunded, according to hospital officials.

However, some of the patients apparently feel differently. On March 10, two patients filed a class action lawsuit against the hospital and the doctors claiming that they face increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and prolonged use of blood thinners because of the procedures, along with severe psychological damage. Six more heart patients filed separate suits shortly thereafter, alleging medical malpractice, fraud, lack of informed consent, and violations of state consumer protection laws.

Other area hospitals have begun reviews of the two cardiologist's qualifications. Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville is presently reviewing these doctors' requests for full privileges there. These requests were made only a few weeks ago, and the doctors to date have been granted temporary privileges. A representative of Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital stated that the names of the two cardiologists would be given to the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services for further action. Widely accepted medical standards prescribe the use of stents for patients who have a blockage of greater than 70 percent of an artery. The Westmoreland patients who received the stents had blockages of 50 percent or less.