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To stent or not to stent, that is in question

Thu, 08/09/2012 - 9:29am
Mass Device

New accusations that one of the nation's largest hospital chains performed more than a thousand unnecessary heart procedures grabbed headlines this week, but the practice is far from unique in U.S. health care.

An internal review by Tennessee-based Hospital Corporation of America found unnecessary heart procedures being performed at several facilities, according to The New York Times. (Rusty Russell/Getty Images)

An internal review by Tennessee-based Hospital Corporation of America found unnecessary heart procedures being performed at several facilities, according to The New York Times. (Rusty Russell/Getty Images)

2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only half of 144,000 nonemergency heart catheterizations — typically the use of tiny balloons and stents to clear blocked arteries — were appropriate; 38 percent were "uncertain" and 12 percent were "inappropriate."

"It's presented in the media as if it's an aberrancy, when actually it's the rule," said Dr. David Brown, an interventional cardiologist and professor of medicine at SUNY-Stony Brook School of Medicine of the unnecessary heart procedures. "The medical system is addicted to the revenues that it generates."

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