A doctor at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Md., is under scrutiny after the hospital notified 369 patients who received coronary stent implants under his care that the implant might not have been needed, the Baltimore Sun reported.
St. Joseph’s cardiology business is being investigated by federal officials for healthcare fraud, the newspaper reported. An internal hospital review prompted by the investigation and a patient’s complaint revealed the apparently unnecessary procedures. The hospital began notifying the affected patients last month.
The Sun reviewed several of the cases and found that some patients were told that their blockages were more severe than they really were:
"One 69-year-old man was told his artery had a 95 percent blockage, yet the new review suggests something closer to 10 percent, which is considered insignificant. A 55-year-old woman who agreed to receive a stent after being told she had a 90 percent blockage has since learned she had virtually no problem and that she never suffered from the heart diagnosis that has consumed her life for the past 18 months," the newspaper reported.
St. Joseph performs about 6,500 cardiac procedures a year and last year reported the placement of its 100,000th coronary stent since 1980.
Hospital officials told the Sun the only doctor implicated is Mark Midei, who "abruptly stopped practicing and lost his privileges at the hospital last summer without notice to his patients or any comment from hospital officials."
"Midei declined to discuss the matter in detail but released a statement Thursday saying he expects to be exonerated and to return to medical practice," according to the Sun. "’I am confident that I have always acted in the best interest of my patients, and when all the facts are presented, I will continue providing quality medical care to my patients,’ he said."
Vicki Marrs was implanted with a coronary stent in July, 2008, after being told one of her arteries was 90 percent blocked. Subsequent review of her case showed that Marrs had at most a 10 percent blockage and that she never suffered from the kind of heart disease Midei described.
"I’m angry and I’m upset," Marrs told the newspaper. "You go to a doctor thinking he’s going to take care of you and make you better, and now I have this thing that I don’t need and that can’t be removed."
But other patients told the Sun they reject the notion of wrongdoing by Midei.
"No one can ever tell me that I didn’t need that stent," said Peggy Lambdin, who woke up in July, 2008, feeling as if she were drowning. A few days later she was diagnosed at St. Joseph with a 90 percent blockage and Midei placed a stent. The symptoms cleared up almost immediately, Lambdin told the paper, even though a letter she received from the hospital pegged her blockage as less than 50 percent.
"I feel like he saved my life," she said. "I trusted him, and I still trust him. … If I needed another stent, I would want Dr. Midei to do it."