New York VA hospital physician misreported patients' surgical outcomes, investigation reveals

A federal investigation found a surgeon at Albany (N.Y.) Stratton VA Medical Center misreported the surgical outcomes of three cancer patients who later required additional procedures to remove their tumors, according to Times Union.

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation after a confidential complaint was made in January 2017 regarding the hospital's surgery services.

The investigation centered around a radiofrequency ablation procedure used to destroy tumors. The report found the surgeon used this procedure on two patients with cirrhosis of the liver. The surgeon was unable to completely remove the tumors. While follow-up MRIs revealed the tumors had grown, the surgeon informed patients the tumors were either recurrent or residual masses, according to an OIG report.  Investigators said the surgeon also misrepresented surgical outcomes for a third patient with cirrhosis and hepatitis C who underwent the procedure.

"Accurate information was necessary for (the patients) to have a full understanding of the actual outcomes, ongoing risks and benefits, and the option to select another provider or facility for cancer care," the report said.

A different interventional radiologist successfully removed the three patients' tumors during follow-up procedures.

Investigators also found the surgeon did not have comprehensive documentation showing he or she was cleared to perform the ablation procedure. The OIG report recommended the hospital review its credentialing and privileging program and improve its peer-review program and professional practice evaluations.  

The hospital is in the process of implementing the OIG's recommendations and did not discipline the surgeon.

"The conclusion was there is no evidence of intentional or negligent misrepresentation of the clinical condition to the patients, and no basis for further ethical or disciplinary referral," Darlene Delancey, Albany VA director, told Times Union.

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