A study released on September 23, 2016 by The Doctors Company, the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurance company, analyzed 1,438 medical malpractice claims against plastic surgeons who were insured by The Doctors Company and which plastic surgery medical malpractice claims were closed from January 2007 through June 2015.
The study found that the most common medical malpractice allegation made against plastic surgeons was improper performance of surgery (49%), followed by improper management of surgical patient (13%), improper performance of treatment or procedure (12%), retained foreign body – surgical (6%), breach of confidentiality (4%), and failure to obtain consent (3%).
The study found that the most common injury alleged in the plastic surgery medical malpractice claims was emotional trauma (35%), followed by scarring (23%), cosmetic injury (14%), infection (12%), burns (6%), on-going pain (6%), tissue necrosis (4%), nerve damage (4%), retained foreign bodies (2%), wound dehiscence (2%), hematomas (2%), adverse reactions to medication (2%), contractures (2%), and punctures or perforations of an organ (2%).
In 3% of the plastic surgery claims, the patient died. Causes of death included deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolus, acute blood loss due to punctures during liposuction, excessive levels of narcotic medications causing respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, malignant hyperthermia, abdominal compartment syndrome, and aspiration pneumonia.
The study found that the top factor contributing to patient injury was technical performance (42%), followed by patient factors (41%), communication between patient or family and provider (10%), selection and management of therapy (10%), insufficient or lack of documentation (8%), patient assessment issues (6%), and lack of or failure in system for patient care (4%).
The study found that the frequency of plastic surgery malpractice claims and plastic surgery malpractice lawsuits has decreased from 37% in 2002 to 13% in 2015, with claims frequency remaining nearly level over the last six years ending in 2015.
The study also looked at open plastic surgery claims for the most recent eights quarters, from the first quarter of 2014 through the last quarter of 2015, which found that the most common plastic surgery medical malpractice allegation, i.e., improper performance of surgery, ranged from 49% to 62%, which the study described as “fairly consistent.” The study stated that the open claims data is consistent with the closed claims data from 2007 to 2014.
A member of the Board of Directors of The Doctors Company commented on the plastic surgery malpractice claims study: “This study is invaluable in that it spots important trends early, such as the finding involving technical errors. With this knowledge, plastic surgeons can work to enhance technical skills and program directors can more keenly focus on technical skills when instructing residents.”
If you or a loved one suffered a bad outcome, injury, or other harm as a result of a plastic surgery procedure in the United States, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your plastic surgery claim for you and represent you in a claim against a plastic surgeon, if appropriate.
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