Vicki Marrs had a stent implanted in 2008 after she was told she had 90 percent blockage in an artery. She's since learned her blockage was closer to 10 percent. St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, whose cardiology business was a focus of a federal health-care fraud investigation, notified hundreds of its heart patients that they may have received expensive and potentially dangerous coronary implants they didn't need. An internal review, begun last May at the behest of federal investigators and in response to a patient complaint, turned up 369 patients with stents that appear to have been implanted in their arteries unnecessarily, CEO Jeffrey K. Norman said. Patients began receiving letters alerting them to the finding in December 2009, and more notifications were expected."We take our interaction and the care of our patients with the utmost seriousness, and so we wanted to alert patients and their physicians to what we found," said Norman. In several cases reviewed by The Baltimore Sun, patients who received coronary stents at St. Joseph -- purportedly to open a clogged artery to correct a severe blockage -- have since learned they had only minor blockage, if any. The center typically performs about 6,500 cardiac procedures a year -- an average of 18 a day. Last year, St. Joseph highlighted the placement of its 100,000th coronary stent since 1980. Hospital officials say the only doctor implicated in their review is one of the center's marquee physicians, Dr. Mark G. Midei, who abruptly stopped practicing and lost his privileges at the hospital last summer.
Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna