Unnecessary Angioplasties? Doctors Must Treat Chest Pain Properly

The dangers of failing to diagnose cancer and other serious health conditions are well known. Less appreciated, however, are the risks that come from overtreatment. Those risks can also lead to severe consequences.

The result can be injuries caused by medical malpractice.

The New York Times reported recently on a major hospital chain that used invasive heart disease treatment even for patients who did not have significant heart disease. The chain in question was HCA.

HCA is the acronym for Health Corporation of America. The company controls 163 hospitals across the country.

A common invasive procedure to treat heart disease is a coronary angioplasty. This is a procedure intended to open up arteries of the heart that have become narrow or blocked. The goal is to improve blood flow to the heart muscle.

Nationally, an estimated 8 percent of non-emergency angioplasties are performed inappropriately. The data come from Dr. William Weintraub, chief cardiologist at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware.

Performing unnecessary angioplasties is not only a waste of time and money. It also puts patients at risk of hospital infections and other complications.

It’s true that determining whether a patient should have an angioplasty is often a delicate decision. An angioplasty can cost as much as $20,000, and it normally requires the insertion of a mesh stent to keep arteries open.

It should also be noted that heart pain can often be addressed through medication rather than an invasive procedure involving a stent.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the nation. It is also a major cause of disability. The importance of treating it properly is therefore of broad importance.

Source: “Overtreating chest pain is in the spotlight as investigators probe procedures at HCA hospitals,” Washington Post/ Associated Press, 8-7-12

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