The Doctors Company, which is the largest physician-owed medical malpractice insurer in the United States, conducted an analysis in February 2021 of medical malpractice claims against neurosurgeons that closed between 2014 and 2019, which included 302 claims and lawsuits. The purpose of its analysis was to identify what most often leads to medical malpractice claims against neurosurgeons and to suggest best practices for risk mitigation. The analysis examined medical malpractice allegations against neurosurgeons, diagnoses, procedures, and contributing factors, as well as indemnities and expenses paid. The claims experience of neurosurgeon members of The Doctors Company was then benchmarked against a national sample of other neurosurgeons.
The analysis found the following:
- The two most common allegations against neurosurgeons were improper performance of surgery (40% of claims) and improper management of the surgical patient (33% of claims).
- Technical performance was the greatest factor leading to patient injury (65% of claims).
- Patient assessment issues were also prominent among contributing factors (29% of claims), alongside selection and management of therapy (27% of claims).
- Diagnosis-related allegations made up only 10% of claims, but communication among providers about the patient’s condition was an important factor leading to patient injury in these claims, appearing in 28% of studied cases in this category.
- Many claims alleging technical performance issues involved diagnostic tests: improper management of the surgical patient (26% of these claims alleged CT scans were delayed or not ordered) and improper performance of surgery (22% of these claims alleged CT scans were delayed or not ordered).
The Doctors Company’s study concluded: For neurosurgery, as for most surgical specialties, technical performance issues rise to prominence when reviewing closed claims. To reduce technical performance risks, a surgeon who has less experience performing a particular procedure may benefit from involvement by one who has more; physicians and patients benefit when organizational cultures foster such collaboration as part of their culture of safety, along with time-outs and other communication strategies. Clinicians should hone strategies for risk reduction through careful patient selection and clear communication with patients. All parties benefit when clinicians set reasonable patient expectations about outcomes, discuss the possibility of complications and/or less-than-optimal results, and link back to these conversations when an undesirable outcome occurs.
Each year, 20% of all practicing neurosurgeons in the United States are subjected to medical malpractice litigation; nearly all neurosurgeons will be named as defendants in a medical malpractice claim by the age of 65. The average indemnity paid in a closed neurosurgical civil claim is $439,146, the highest of all medical specialties. The majority of claims result from dissatisfaction following spinal surgery, although claims after cranial surgery tend to be costlier.
If you or a loved one may have been injured as a result of medical malpractice by a neurosurgeon in the United States, you should promptly seek the advice of a local medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your neurosurgery malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a neurosurgeon medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find neurosurgery malpractice lawyers in your state who may assist you.
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