Penn Health System says cardiologist Vidya Banka may have implanted unnecessary stents

(Chris Gardner / AP Photo)
(Chris Gardner / AP Photo)
Posted: April 05, 2013

The University of Pennsylvania Health System on Wednesday announced it had notified federal authorities, state regulators, and patients that a cardiologist may have performed unnecessary stent procedures at a system hospital.

The doctor, Vidya Banka, 71, had medical privileges at Pennsylvania Hospital, but was not employed by the health system. He has given up those privileges, Penn spokeswoman Susan Phillips said.

Outside cardiovascular experts reviewed a sample of Banka's stent cases from the last five years and concluded that medical tests did not appear to show significant blockages in the heart blood vessels of about 20 patients, Phillips said.

To reopen clogged cardiac vessels, doctors perform a minimally invasive procedure called an angioplasty, then insert one or more tiny tubes - stents - to support the vessels.

Banka, contacted through his office across the street from the hospital, defended his medical practice and criticized the handling of the investigation.

"I have been on the staff of Pennsylvania Hospital for 12 or 13 years, and was director of the catheterization lab," Banka said. Health system officials "have done a rather nontransparent investigation of some of my cases and concluded there were some stents that were not appropriate. I do not agree with them, but they have not given me the opportunity to give my opinion ."

Banka, who was educated in his native India and the United States, said he had trained many cardiologists and invented methods and equipment to improve angioplasty.

Penn has offered the patients who may have received inappropriate stents a chance to see a Penn cardiologist at no cost, Phillips said, or have their records transferred to a physician of their choice.

She could not say whether Banka's cases going back more than five years would be reviewed.

Penn has notified the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, which is involved in prosecuting Medicare fraud, and the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine, which licenses and disciplines physicians.

"Unnecessary stent" cases are not uncommon. In December, for example, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Pittsburgh said Excela Health reimbursed the federal government nearly $2 million in Medicare payments for inappropriate procedures performed at the health system's Greensburg, Pa., hospital.

Phillips said Penn health system officials "are confident that this is an isolated situation."


Contact Marie McCullough at 215-854-2720 or mccullough@phillynews.com.

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