Monday, August 09, 2010
I'm a surgeon and just read your wire story about Dick Cheney getting a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) placed. The story downplays the seriousness of that procedures...once you've got an LVAD in place, it means your heart is essentially incapable of working on its own and has no potential to improve. While LVAD outcomes have been improving, and some patients live months or even years with one of these devices in place, this is a HUGE operation with MAJOR associated morbidity and mortality. If he's not listed for a heart transplant, his days are seriously numbered. Life on an LVAD isn't something I'd wish on my worst enemy...an axiom that this situation really tests. He's in for a rough time."
Exaggerating potential benefits and minimizing potential harms is a troublesome trend in health care news - something we've documented on HealthNewsReview.org.
It's ironic that the Cheney LVAD story occurred on the same day the New York Times ran a relatively unquestioning piece about a French artificial heart device. Scrutiny of the evidence for medical devices - big or small - is an important area of improvement for health care journalists.