September 30, 2013 — Bloomberg reports that cardiac stents were linked to at least 773 deaths last year, according to a review of FDA adverse event reports — a 71% increase in the number of reports since 2008. Last year, over 4,135 non-fatal injuries were reported, including perforated arteries, blood clots, and other incidents — a 33% increase from 2008.
The use of cardiac stents began in the 1980s, but didn’t take off until the 2000s. Today, about 700,000 stent procedures are performed in the U.S. every year. The devices are implanted with a catheter, typically inserted through an incision in the groin and guided into the heart. Once in place, a doctor inflates the balloon-like stent to prop open arteries.
Although the benefits of cardiac stents in patients who have just had a heart attack is well-established, there is controversy over the benefits of stents in stable patients with pre-existing heart conditions.
In the last few years, unnecessary stents have sparked increasing concern, federal investigations, criminal charges, and a number of personal injury lawsuits. Last year, Dr. Mehmood Patel began a 10-year prison sentence after he was convicted on federal charges stemming from a multi-million scheme to implant thousands of unnecessary cardiac stents.