As many people age in California and around the nation, they begin having difficulties with the veins in their bodies, especially in their legs. However, some doctors may overprescribe invasive procedures that can cause severe complications, such as amputation and even death. One particular procedure, known as the atherectomy, is questionable.
Patient exploitation for Medicare payouts
An analysis of Medicare claims shows an explosion in the number of atherectomies performed over a three-year period, from 2019 to 2022, fueled partly by strip-mall clinics and outpatient vascular centers. The study indicated that one in four patients underwent the invasive procedure after only receiving a diagnosis of claudication, with many resulting in surgical errors and amputation of the affected leg. Claudication is an early stage of vascular disease generally treated with medication and exercise. Some doctors stood out because of the high number of procedures performed, while others drew attention to themselves because more than half of their patients getting atherectomies simply had a claudication diagnosis.
Although the overwhelming number of physicians treating vein disease do not recommend this surgery as an initial step, others may frighten their patients into getting it by indicating that poor circulation can lead to leg amputation. With the high reimbursement rate, some physicians may use the procedure to cover the operating costs of their practices.
An indicator of a disturbing trend?
While analysis of Medicare claims has limitations, identifying these outliers is crucial to protecting patients who may suffer botched procedures that qualify as medical malpractice. Anyone unsure of a diagnosis and recommended treatment should get a second opinion.
If you or a loved one have suffered complications from a vascular surgery that may have been inappropriate, you may be able to file a malpractice claim against the doctor who performed it. A successful claim can help pay for further treatment, pain and suffering and supplying your daily needs.