Angioplasty is usually safe. It should be — it was invented as a safer option to open heart surgery. But angioplasty can involve medical malpractice in the following circumstances:
- Failure to move quickly enough if the patient is in the middle of a heart attack. The standard is that angioplasty should start within 60 to 90 minutes of the patient’s arrival at the emergency room. Longer times risk permanent damage to the heart.
- Injury to the heart during the angioplasty procedure. Angioplasty involves balloons, wires and stents (tiny metal scaffolding), any of which can break, dislodge, or puncture an artery. These risks are why you want to make sure you really need the angioplasty before you have it. But it can also be medical malpractice if the injury is not responded to effectively. Often when an artery is accidentally punctured, the patient will need to have the sac around the heart – called the pericardium – opened up so that blood doesn’t collect under pressure and squeeze the heart so hard that it cannot pump effectively. (When this happens, it is called cardiac tamponade, an emergency.) If the injury was not responded to appropriately, that can be cause for investigation and a potential malpractice lawsuit.
- The patient did not need the angioplasty in the first place. Patients need to know that these are lucrative procedures for hospitals and cardiologists. Medical leaders believe that many angioplasties are medically unnecessary. Just because a doctor sees a blockage in a heart artery in a patient without symptoms does NOT necessarily mean the heart would benefit from angioplasty. (More on this under safety tips below.) If a patient suffers a significant injury or death during an angioplasty that was not necessary, that can amount to medical malpractice.
IAngioplasty saves lives during a heart attack – if (and this is a big IF) it can be done fast enough to open the artery before permanent damage is caused to the heart muscle. But for patients who have no symptoms of an ongoing heart attack, angioplasty is often worthless. It exposes you to the risk of dying from a complication of having wires and tubes poked into your heart. Read More…
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