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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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From HCA, no word on which of its hospitals are involved in federal heart-procedure investigation

HCA, the parent company of the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, is the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.

Officials at the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and at HCA, its parent company, declined to say whether the hospital is among those being investigated for doing unnecessary heart procedures.

HCA said Monday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami has requested information on whether interventional cardiology procedures done at 10 HCA hospitals were medically necessary.

The company did not specify which of its hospitals were being investigated, though it did say that the hospitals were located primarily in Florida.

A spokeswoman for Spotsylvania Regional declined to comment Tuesday on the investigation. She referred all questions to HCA headquarters in Nashville, where a spokesman also declined to comment.

“All we’re going to have for you on that is what’s in yesterday’s 10-Q” federal filing, the spokesman said.

The company’s disclosure came on the same day that The New York Times reported that HCA has been investigating its own hospitals and has found that cardiologists at those hospitals did unnecessary cardiac catheterizations, a diagnostic procedure, and unnecessary stent placements, a procedure to relieve heart blockages.

The work is said to have been done from 2002 to late 2010. The newspaper reported that most of the hospitals are in Florida, but that two or three are in other states.

The newspaper said it based its report in part on confidential company documents that it obtained. The newspaper also reported that the unnecessary work has resulted in injuries to some patients and to charges to the patients’ insurance plans, including Medicare.

In an email response to the newspaper, HCA said it has taken steps to “investigate areas of concern” and to “take action where necessary.”   In its SEC filing, HCA said that it could not predict what effect, if any, the federal investigation would have on the company.

HCA is the nation’s largest hospital chain with 163 hospitals. Spotsylvania Regional opened in June 2010 with a full range of services, including cardiac catheterization.

(The New York Times story on unnecessary heart work at HCA hospitals is here. Today’s ProPublica story on the prevalence of unnecessary heart procedures is here.)

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