Critical failures with stent placement procedures may cause serious harm to those undergoing stent insertion and their loved ones.
A stent is a small metallic or plastic tube that keeps the space into which the specialist inserted the stent from closing or becoming blocked. This device has many uses in medicine and may be required to treat a number of serious conditions. For instance, a stent allows fluids to pass through to the bladder in the case of bladder surgery. However, stent insertions are most common in heart surgery to keep blood flowing through veins and arteries leading to or from the heart. They may also be used to remove blockages, which can cause heart attacks or brain aneurysms. While stents may be a vital, life-saving tool offering the best chances of survival, alleviating troublesome symptoms, and preventing dangerous complications, they can also be a nightmare when something with a stent goes wrong.
What Causes a Person to Need a Stent?
Stents for Heart Problems
Coronary stents prevent or repair blockages in veins and arteries leading to and from the heart. Blood vessel blockages are caused by fat and waste buildup, primarily due to diet and lifestyle habits like smoking. When the vessels leading from the heart to the rest of the body contain buildup of plaque, the arteries narrow, restricting the blood flow from the heart. Arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries from plaque, can lead to heart attack or stroke, both potentially deadly. However, blood vessels with plaque can affect any area of the body, including the brain, limbs, and kidneys. Cardiologists may prescribe medications to clear the arteries of plaque or perform coronary bypasses to take veins from other places in the body to bypass the hardened or narrowed veins. In addition, they commonly prescribe coronary angioplasty (percutaneous coronary intervention), the procedure to widen the arteries and for placing a stent in the blocked or narrowed veins or arteries. A larger fabric stent, called a stent graft, is often inserted into arteries.
Other Conditions that may Require Stent Insertion
Stents can also prevent blockages in the bronchial tubes and bile ducts, all passageways from one organ to or from other vital organs. These devices may also be used when treating diseases like bladder cancer. Treatable cancer like bladder cancer typically requires surgery. The bladder tumor stays localized and so, the surgeon removes the tumor without the necessity of further cancer treatment in many cases. Typically, a doctor places a stent into the ureter after surgery to ensure that the passageway between the kidney and bladder stays open, and the patient can urinate.
Basics of Stent Implantation Surgery
To perform the stent placement, the cardiologist, urologist, or other type of surgeon first inserts a catheter or small tube and then inflates a balloon closest to the affected area, like the groin for a ureter stent or the arm for a heart or brain vessel stent. Cameras inserted with the catheter allow the doctors to see where to place the stent. Like angioplasty, a procedure for unblocking clogged arteries to the heart, the balloon inflates the artery to make room for free-flowing blood. In the case of other stents, it facilitates passage of other fluids as well.
What can Happen if a Stent Operation goes Wrong?
Risk of Infection with Stent Surgeries
If you have a ureteral stent placement, it is more likely quick and simple, an outpatient procedure. And yet, with any surgery, the patient risks postoperative complications such as infection, especially a urinary tract infection after ureteral stent insertion. Up to half of all patients who have this procedure develop urinary tract infections. But what if you were diagnosed with a MRSA infection after the procedure? MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a superbug that is resistant to most antibiotics. It lives on the skin and is transferred by surfaces contaminated with the bacteria. You might wonder if your medical team infected you with a life-threatening infection that requires six weeks of intravenous medications to cure. Although rare, stents can carry infections, which can be fatal. This is particularly dangerous for heart surgery patients when blood vessels become infected.
Allergic Reactions caused by Metal Stents
Stents can also cause allergic reactions. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a person experiences a dangerous allergic reaction to a metal stent or the medication that coats it. In the case of procedures like angioplasty that use dyes, individuals may have allergic reactions to chemicals in the dye itself.
Additional Stent-Related Complications
Other complications associated with stent insertion include: blood clots, kidney stones, and hemorrhaging. Blood clots can break loose from the stent site and travel to the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke. A pulmonary embolism likewise occurs when a blood clot travels to the lung and creates a blockage. Additionally, anesthesia has its own risks when patients have allergies to certain medications or a bronchial stent causes breathing difficulty. The body may reject the stent, or the stent fails and collapses, causing the blockage to return or the artery to become constricted again. A heart patient with a failed stent may experience renewed chest pain or breathing problems.
Follow-up is Crucial after Placing a Stent
After stent surgery, the specialist who performed the placement and the patient’s primary physician should follow up a week after surgery to check the patient’s recovery. At this crucial appointment, the physician can see if the stent is causing problems or is not doing the job intended in placing it. Coronary patients may show signs that the stent is not working if they still have trouble breathing or chest pain. Even if the patient does not show symptoms, doctors should follow up with stent patients periodically in the first year to ensure the procedure was successful.
Problems with Stent Placement and Medical Malpractice
When the stent does cause complications or fails, it may be that the stent is unable to fix the problem. An arterial stent may fail because an individual’s body rejects it, or the problem it was meant to fix cannot be fixed with a stent. Lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise, may affect how the body responds to a stent or reverts to blockages the stent cleared. In other instances, a doctor may have placed a stent for a patient who would not benefit from the procedure. Unnecessary stent surgery may occur when other treatments would be better, such as drug therapy for coronary heart disease or life coaching to change a patient’s lifestyle habits. Not all heart attack patients are given stents to save their lives. Some get them for narrowed arteries, which can be treated without a stent in many cases.
Doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals who:
- perform an unnecessary stent procedure
- cause a patient’s infection through poor hygienic practices,
- make mistakes during the procedure (ie. accidentally puncture the vein or artery in which the stent is placed), or
- fail to follow up after inserting a stent and a patient’s condition worsens,
may be liable for complications that lead to long hospital stays, extended medication treatment, and further medical care.
In the case of the ureteral stent after bladder surgery, the person goes home with a catheter to urinate in, which must be changed frequently. A patient who is sent home without proper care or assistance can end up with a serious infection when they are unable to properly care for their post-operative condition.
Stent Related Complications in New Jersey? Contact Fronzuto Law Group to Discuss Your Legal Options
If your post-stent surgery infection or other stent-related complications were caused by substandard care or mistakes by your medical team, a medical malpractice attorney on our team can assist you to determine if your healthcare providers are at fault. If negligence occurred in your stent case, we will do everything in our power to ensure that you recover your financial and other losses due to medical mistreatment. Call (973)-435-4551 for a free case review, learn what filing a stent malpractice lawsuit requires, and what more you can do in New Jersey to hold treatment providers accountable.