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Vascular Surgery Stents and Balloons Not Necessary?

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from a caller who asks, “I had a blood clot in my leg a few years ago, and when I was at the vein clinic, the doctor said I might be at risk for another clot in the future. He decided to put a stent in my vein. Things did not go well. Now I am at risk for losing my leg; what are my legal options?”.

Hopefully, the leg’s loss can be avoided. When we get a call of this nature, we suggest that second and third medical opinions be obtained.

If a medical mistake has occurred, there may be an opportunity to improve the patient’s situation despite the error.

From a purely legal perspective, the mere fact that treatment “did not go well” does not necessarily mean medical malpractice has occurred.

That said, data collected by Medicare and Medicaid suggests that some doctors may be performing unnecessary placement of stents or balloons in a patient’s leg veins or arteries.

It may be that Medicare and Medicaid are overreacting. Still, it also could be that some clinics are seeing a patient as simply a means of making money and actually perform unnecessary procedures.

Unnecessary placement of stents in leg veins or arteries may indeed qualify as medical malpractice. Suppose there is no recognized sound medical basis to justify doing a procedure. In that case, the standard of care is that the procedure not be done.

Unnecessary insertion of stents in a patient’s legs can make the vascular disease worse by blocking narrow vessels or can cause a vessel to rupture.

Most medical doctors hold that the standard of care is that these stent placement surgeries should be performed only as a last resort when a patient has no other options. The surgeon doing the procedure should carefully document that the procedure is medically justified. The patient should give consent to the procedure knowing the risks and benefits.

The procedures are frequently done by doctors who call themselves interventional radiologists. While inserting a stent in a vein may see like a solution where blood flow is restricted, these procedures are risky, and often the standard of care is to prescribe a blood-thinning medication.

If there is evidence that a doctor is performing surgical procedures for financial gain rather than medical necessity, their license to practice medicine may be in jeopardy, in addition to a jury holding them legally responsible for the harm they caused a patient.

Healthcare whistleblowers have uncovered several instances where a doctor received a kickback from a medical device company, something a doctor’s medical oath prohibits.

So, how do you protect yourself if you are concerned a surgeon does not have your best interests in mind?  – By getting a second opinion.

It may take time to get another opinion. Still, when you measure that extra time against the risk of losing your leg as a result of a stenting procedure that was unneeded or just not done right, it makes sense to take the time to get another opinion.

And the loss of the leg is not the only risk of these stenting procedures; other hazards include the following:

  •     Blood clotting
  •     Stroke
  •     Heart Attacks
  •     Infection
  •     Perforated arteries
  •     Anesthesia complications

Of course, stenting may be a patient’s only option if the physician is presented with blocked arteries, gangrene, poor blood flow, or they the patient is at risk of limb loss if nothing is done.

With today’s question, the patient had no real symptoms and was just concerned about a future blood clot that might travel to the heart or lungs. With no real symptoms to support stenting, it definitely calls into question whether a stenting procedure was needed. And, definitely warrants a second opinion.

Lastly, whenever you see doctors setting up free screenings, it is reasonable to be skeptical.

When doctors set up free screening programs looking for plaques in leg arteries without symptoms, it should be a sign or a red flag for a patient to be wary.

We can’t emphasize enough in these situations: get a second opinion.

As attorneys we would much rather our clients be healthy, than to be called upon to sift through their medical records to see if the doctor who did the procedure undertook to do it when it was not medically necessary.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.