Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Cardiologists Increasingly Facing Claims of Medical Malpractice

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Nov 05, 2018 | 0 Comments

Claims of medical malpractice from between 2006 and 2015 were compiled into a database from insurance providers, major healthcare systems and hospital facilities for analysis. The results clearly showed that cardiologists are experiencing a significant rise in the number of malpractice claims and the value of such claims. The over 1,500 claims against cardiologists showed approximately a 91% increase in claims and monetary increases of a staggering 142%. The American Journal of Cardiology agreed with the accuracy of these findings.

Details of Cardiologist Med Mal Claims

The results were analyzed according to a “Controlled Risk Insurance Company Benchmarking System”. The leading reasons for claims were for inadequate treatment and errors in diagnosis. Among the claims roughly 68% were ordered to be dismissed or denied. Approximately 30% of these claims ended in an out-of-court settlement agreement. Cardiology care, in general, is becoming more costly. Much of the problem is attributed to doctors increasingly practicing “defensive medicine”. Those practicing in the specialty are hopeful that efforts to better understand the reasons for the increase in claims will lead to new procedures and protocols that will begin to reverse this trend.

Effectiveness of Cardiac Stents Challenged

Dr. Haider Warraich is a physician who frequently writes and conducts medical research. He wrote an editorial titled “Don't Put That in My Heart Until You're Sure It Really Works” in the New York Times. He believes that surgical procedures using cardiac stents to eliminate blockages and reduce chest pain may not have better outcomes than medication therapy. He cited how one manufacturer of dissolvable heart stents removed their product from the market after accusations were made that they furthered the risk for a heart attack.

Treatment for “A-Fib”

Atrial fibrillation is a condition where the heart has irregular contractions and patients are likely to have a stroke. Over 3 million Americans are believed to have this condition. A common method of treatment is catheter ablation. This process involves uses plastic tube-like materials to create scarring within heart tissue in order to block abnormal electrical impulses from spreading. The procedure is estimated to cost well over $20,000. A recently published study examined over 2,000 patients for a span of roughly five years. Their findings suggested that patients were considerably more susceptible to problems such as “death, disabling stroke, serious bleeding” when compared to patients who were treated with only medication. 

What Cardiologists Do

The field of cardiology is largely centered on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions that adversely impact the heart, blood vessels and other aspects of the cardiovascular system. Across the U.S. there are nearly 40,000 practicing cardiologists who have involvement in the following:

  • Identifying problems with blood flow through arteries, veins and to and from the heart
  • Common risk factors among cardiology patients include high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity
  • Primary care physicians are a leading source of patient referrals
  • Diagnostic procedures include x-rays, stress tests, and EKGs
  • An electrocardiogram (EKG) uses an electrode to assess potential heart problems

Surgical Cardiology

Some cardiologists specialize in cardiovascular surgery. They often perform catheterization procedures to improve the blood flow to and from the heart. Blockages in blood flow throughout the body are a common reason for surgical treatment. Some practitioners are involved in electrophysiology and install pacemakers and defibrillators. Patients of cardiologists are often high-risk with problems that are critical to life such as poor blood flow or heart problems. For this reason, it would seem they will always be among those practitioners most likely to face problems with medical malpractice.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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