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Was that cardiac stent actually necessary?

Shortness of breath and chest pain can be really scary – and it’s even more frightening to hear that there’s a blockage in your heart that’s stopping blood and oxygen from getting where it needs to be behind these feelings.

It’s become common for this kind of problem to be treated with stents (a small, surgical piece of mesh that’s placed inside an artery or vein to open the passage and allow blood to pass through more easily). You may have them, or know someone who does, yourself.

What if you learned, however, that stents are overused, unnecessary for many and can lead to serious injuries and death? What if the reason they get used so often is that providers are more concerned about their wallets than their patients? Here’s what you need to know:

Studies show that medication is just as good as surgery

In an acute situation, stents do save lives. However, roughly 1.2 million angioplasties to install stents are done every year, and around half of them are elective surgeries on people with stable conditions.

Studies have shown, however, that drug therapy is just as effective. Beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, statins and nitroglycerin can all be used to control painful symptoms effectively, and exercise, weight loss and smoking cessation can help treat the underlying condition.

When surgical patients were compared to patients who received conservative therapy over a five-year study, 19% of both groups had suffered heart attacks and 12% of both groups had been hospitalized for additional heart problems.

If the study indicates that stents and medication are equally effective, why are stents a problem?

Essentially, it comes down to the physician’s oath to “do no harm.” Regardless of how common the procedure has become, it’s still a highly invasive surgical procedure that exposes a patient to everything from anesthesia errors to post-surgical infections that can be fatal.

In our own office, we’re currently working with the victims of Indiana cardiologist Dr. Edward Harlamet, who has performed unnecessary cardiac procedures on at least one of our clients – and we’re urging others to come forward.

If a doctor skipped straight to stents without discussing the alternatives you had or the risks that you would face from the procedure, you may be a victim of medical malpractice. The best way to protect your interests is to learn more.