A recent article by cardio writer Larry Husten confirms what most cardiovascular medical imaging specialists already know: The number of cardiocascular procedures performed in hospitals is going down.
From July 2010 to July 2011, hospital cardiovascular procedures – which include medical imaging procedures – declined 9.37 percent and outpatient procedures declined 6.28, according to a report by Wells Fargo. And this happened during a time when the number of most other medical procedures went up. Moreover, it was a continuation of a steady long-term decline in cardiovascular procedures.
Why the decline? Husten suggests four causes:
- Concerns about stent overuse, which have stemmed from high-profile cases of stents gone awry and academic research on stent effectiveness.
- The Department of Justice investigation into ICD implants has probably reduced the deployment numbers of these devices.
- The effectiveness of preventive therapies like aspirin, statins and anti-hypertensive treatments.
- The cost of cardiovascular procedures in an ever-tightening medical market.
It’s probably also safe to say that cardiovascular medical professionals are cautious about expanding their practices when the future of healthcare is so uncertain. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may or may not survive the courts or the next Congress and President. And if it does, many rules and guidelines – including those associated with payment – have yet to be clarified.
In the short term, then, the number of cardiovascular procedures performed probably will not go up. Changes in healthcare economics and cardiovascular technology may, indeed, cause numbers to go down in the long term.