As recently reported in the New York Times, dozens of people have lost limbs after undergoing arterial procedures ironically called “leg saver” procedures. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/15/health/atherectomy-peripheral-artery-disease.html
This article highlights how medical device manufacturers create financial incentives for some doctors to perform unnecessary and potentially dangerous medical procedures. The story featured in the article concerned a Michigan woman who underwent at least 18 “artery opening” procedures in the hope her peripheral artery disease would improve. Instead, she lost her left leg.
Further investigation revealed that 45 other patients had suffered a similar fate. The Times' investigation found that the doctor in question was part of a “cottage industry” financed by the device manufacturer. As stated in the Times' article, “The industry targets the roughly 12 million Americans with peripheral artery disease…”
According to the article, medical research establishes that in general, the vast majority of people with this condition have mild or no symptoms and need no treatment beyond exercise and medicine. Furthermore, even those with serious problems from PAD should not have repeated procedures. The procedures in question are risky, with a high rate of amputation.
Nevertheless, the number of these procedures has risen drastically over the past decade. Since about 2011, Medicare has reimbursed for these procedures at outpatient surgery centers, and doctors charge as much as $10,000 per procedure.
In addition, device manufacturers and related companies offer incentives, loans, training, billing tips, lucrative teaching opportunities and medical conferences. The industry is now a $2 billion a year enterprise. In the meantime, there is little oversight or regulation of these procedures.
In recent years, we have seen many stories about the influence of money on medicine, and this article is a disturbing example of this trend. The first rule of medicine is “do no harm”. Unfortunately, some in medicine have lost sight of this rule for financial gain.
If you believe you have suffered injury due to an unnecessary medical procedure of any kind, please contact us.