Heart patients can be confident in their cardiologists

In recent days the details of alleged misuse of coronary stents for patients treated in one of the area's hospitals has been in the news ("Patients learn they might have unneeded stents" Jan. 15). The allegations leave patients and the public at-large wondering about all cardiac care and if they can rely on the recommendations from their doctors.

The profession of cardiology has always held patient trust in the highest regard. Quality initiatives that include oversight for everyone who practices in a catherization lab, even the director, must be part of every institution's quality control program.

I want to reassure the public that board certified cardiologists who are members of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the Maryland Chapter of the ACC (MDACC) are working every day to put their patients' care and their patients interests first. As an organization we have carefully created practice guidelines based on scientific data providing physicians the latest in best practices. We have built databases so that hospitals can see how their results for procedures compare with hospitals across the region and nationally. We have education sessions, scientific journals and websites devoted to making the best information available at the hospital bedside -- so the best decisions are made for an individual patient.

In recent years the ACC has created appropriate use criteria to help physicians determine the best care of patients. These guidelines help physicians by synthesizing the scientific data into documents with the goal of delivery of the right care at the right time in the most affordable manner possible. A determination on whether a patient should receive a stent, have bypass surgery or be treated with medications alone should be based on established clinical guidelines and with the individual needs of each particular patient.

Dr. Samuel Goldberg, Annapolis

The writer is president of the Maryland Chapter of the American College of Cardiology.

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