A Maryland Hospital and one of its cardiologists were hit with more than 100 complaints alleging that the cardiologist placed stents in the hearts of patients who did not need them.

An attorney for the plaintiffs filed the claims with Maryland’s health claims arbitration office, which is a necessary step before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state. The complaints allege that the cardiologist, who was in charge of St. Joseph Medical Center’s (SJMC) cardiac catheterization unit, performed hundreds of heart stent procedures that were medically unnecessary. The problem was uncovered during a federal investigation of Medicare fraud and health law violations involving SJMC and an affiliated group of cardiologists.

Hospital administrators reviewed records of all procedures performed by the cardiologist from May 2007 through 2009, and determined that stents may have been unnecessarily placed in hundreds of cases. The doctor stopped practicing and lost his privileges at the hospital. The hospital sent hundreds of letters to patients notifying them that their heart stent procedures may have been unwarranted.

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A local plaintiff’s malpractice attorney filed 101 complaints alleging conspiracy, negligence, and fraud. The complaints are for individual lawsuits, not a class-action lawsuit, meaning that there could be as many as 101 separate jury trials in the case. The plaintiffs’ attorney is alleging that the cardiologist lied about the amount of blockage in patients’ arteries, and wrote false information in the patients’ charts.

In a statement, the hospital said “the fact that SJMC sent a letter to certain patients is not proof of liability. SJMC will take responsibility when patients demonstrate that inappropriate care has caused them an injury.” SJMC has requested that patients come forward with medical information that substantiates their claims in order to proceed with settlement talks, but thus far, few patients have taken that route.  

The Maryland Board of Physicians has charged the cardiologist with performing unnecessary medical procedures, and has also accused the doctor of making false medical reports and failing to maintain proper medical records. He could have his licensed revoked or suspended if he is found guilty and could also face monetary fines, probation, or a reprimand.