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EXCLUSIVE: Philadelphia Doctor Resigns After Investigation Finds Stents In Patients That Didn't Need Them

By Stephanie Stahl, Elizabeth Hur

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- An investigation is underway at a local hospital with patients being notified they may have received a medical procedure they did not need.

One patient who received the notification spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News.

John O'Brien says he was shocked and appalled when he received the letter from Pennsylvania Hospital which read in part, ".. Records show that while under Dr. Banka's care you received a cardiac stent."

Penn Medicine is notifying some patients explaining they may have received heart stents they didn't need. Stents are small tubes used to treat weakened arteries. The procedures, we are told, were done by Dr. Vidya Banka, O'Brien's cardiologist, at Pennsylvania Hospital.

O'Brien said, "Initially, I was angry. They're utterly ridiculous as far I'm concerned."

After suffering his first heart attack in 1984, O'Brien has since had five procedures all by Dr. Banka who, according to O'Brien, is caring and compassionate even conservative as Banka advised him against the procedure in 2004.

"I believe the numbers were 30% in one artery and 50% blockage in another and he said I was not a candidate for stents because they didn't do stents if you were less than 70% blocked," O'Brien recalled.

Attorney Shanin Specter with Kline & Spector is currently working on a case involving the same allegations in Kentucky.

"This is a national problem," Specter explained, "There have been criminal prosecutions and civil suits in western Pennsylvania in Maryland and now in Kentucky. There is a risk, infrequent but a risk of death or serious injury. Secondly, once you have a stent you now require a lifetime of pharmaceuticals. The third issue is the cost to the entire system. It increases the cost of healthcare. So a stent, which is placed without necessity, is a cost to us all."

Penn Medicine says it is offering assistance those affected at no cost. Meanwhile, Dr. Banka has resigned from Pennsylvania Hospital leaving O'Brien with just one option.

O'Brien said, "Well, I will certainly find out where he is going and I'll be going there from now on."

On the phone, Dr. Banka denied any wrongdoing and said his experience should speak for itself. He says he resigned out of respect for the administration at Pennsylvania Hospital and he has moved on to work at other institutions.

Penn says the stent misuse was found during a routine review process, but won't say how many patients are involved or if they've been injured.

On Wednesday, Penn Medicine released a statement that reads:

"After learning of concerns about the appropriateness of some cardiac stent placements performed by a private physician, Vidya Banka, MD, at Pennsylvania Hospital, we conducted a review of a sample of his cases, including consulting with outside cardiovascular experts. Because the findings of this sample review showed that some patients received cardiac stents where the patient testing did not appear to show significant vascular blockages, we have notified the U.S. Attorney and the State Board of Medicine and have accepted his resignation from the medical staff at Pennsylvania Hospital. We are contacting patients who had cardiac stents placed by Dr. Banka to notify them of our findings and are committed to ensuring that Dr. Banka's patients are under the ongoing care of a physician and that their questions and concerns are addressed. If requested, we will assist them in arranging to see a Penn cardiologist at no cost, or to have their records transferred to another physician of their choice.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System remains committed to providing the highest quality of care to every patient and we are confident that this is an isolated situation."

Penn says the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Board of Medicine have been notified.

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