Medical Malpractice Relating to Spinal Surgery – Health Education

It is a fact that during the course of their career orthopedic surgeons will more than likely face one or more malpractice claims. Once a complaint has been made against an orthopedic surgeon, the chance of them facing more claims is a lot higher when compared with other fields of practice. If you have read about the laser spine institute malpractice suit and the multi-million dollar payout you will get a good idea of how these cases work. The highest number of malpractice suits are filed against neurosurgeons, compared with all other specific medical fields. Almost 20% of neurosurgeons face a claim every year and, due to these stats, it’s vital that neurosurgeons offer the highest possible levels of care and understand the risk factors that can result in litigation.

Most Frequent Cases

A study was carried out in the US with the sole aim of identifying the most common causes of malpractice accusations within the field of spinal surgery. Just over 28% were classed as catastrophic. These included spinal cord injuries, anoxic/hypoxic brain injuries and fatalities. The other, non-catastrophic cases, were found to include the likes of damage to nerve roots, mispositioned instruments, operating on the wrong surgical sites and complications arising from the anaesthetic and perioperative procedures. The verdicts found to be in favor of the surgeon were 55%, which is a lot lower than the national average which is 75% for physicians. This is thought to be due to the exceptionally high risks, and subsequent complications, which accompany most spinal surgeries. In addition to this, the average awards which are granted to successful claimants are significantly larger than the amounts given in other settlement cases. As you might expect, those spinal malpractice cases where catastrophic complications have occurred, the surgeons are more likely to lose and opt to settle the case out of court to avoid adverse publicity.

In Favor of the Plaintiff

Another telling statistic is in cases relating to treatments of complications and delays in diagnosis. Over 72% of these cases are likely to go the plaintiff’s way. Additionally, a study carried out in a hospital in London revealed that the runaway winner in terms of the cause of a complaint in faulty surgical techniques. Furthermore, more than 25% of these cases were due to surgeries carried out on the wrong site.

Results of These Findings

The statistics relating to these findings should, in particular, encourage all spinal surgeons to pay special attention to any complications that can be caused by either a delay in diagnosis and/or treatments, as well as wrong site surgeries. Risk management strategies should be put in place wherever possible to help surgeons move towards safer medical practices. These could include the likes of;

  • Adequate and appropriate usage of intraoperative imaging
  • Preoperative rest periods or time outs
  • Post-operative care that is both prompt and effective
  • Ensuring that follow-ups are, at least, adequate
  • Communication skills are both efficient and proficient

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