February 21, 2022

A report dated February 2022 by Coverys entitled “Surgery Risks: Through the Lens of Malpractice Claims” stated: “Each year in the United States, more than 48 million surgical inpatient procedures are performed and more than 35.8 million outpatient surgical procedures occur. The average American, in his or her lifetime, will undergo an estimated nine surgical procedures of varying severity. Coverys data shows that surgery — and the care and decision-making leading up to and following surgery — is the second most common cause for medical malpractice claims overall.”

The report was based on an analysis of 2,579 surgery-related closed malpractice claims at Coverys across the five-year period from 2014 through 2018 to evaluate the root causes of medical malpractice claims involving surgery. Surgical allegations accounted for 25% of the more than 10,000 closed claims Coverys has analyzed in the past five years. As stated above, surgery is the second most common cause for medical malpractice claims overall.

The report found the following: 77% of intraoperative allegations were related to provider performance; 29% of surgery injuries are permanent, significant, or worse, with 9% resulting in death; general surgery has a higher-than-expected death rate of 15%; 27% of surgical medical malpractice claims allege a failure in clinical judgment and/or communication; 85% of orthopedic surgery claims allege issues related to surgeon performance; 11% of neurosurgery claims allege wrong site/side surgery; 26% of anesthesia-related claims cite an issue with patient monitoring; 14% of surgery malpractice claims involved allegations pertaining to the preoperative phase; 47% of claims from among more than 50 surgical categories involve just three specialties: General Surgery (22%), Orthopedic Surgery (17%), and Neurosurgery (8%); more than 10% of surgical claims allege a failure in communication.

Coverys concludes its report by stating: “When determining what creates quality or puts it at risk, data is a good place to start. It is our sincere hope that the insights offered in this report will inspire improvement in your hospitals, practices, and facilities; that they might give rise to your own analysis of what’s working and what’s not; and that, in the future, all surgeries — major or minor, emergent or elective, inpatient or outpatient — might be safer because of your commitment to your patients, to your work, and to your colleagues.


Coverys insurance products are issued by Medical Professional Mutual Insurance Company and its subsidiary insurance companies. Medical Professional Mutual Insurance Company (ProMutual®) originated as a joint underwriting association (JUA) created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1975. In July 1992, the state disbanded the JUA and a new organization, The Medical Malpractice Professional Insurance Association (MMPIA), assumed responsibility for former JUA clients. The MMPIA was later converted to a mutual insurance company, Medical Professional Mutual Insurance Company.


If you or a loved one may have been injured as a result of surgical medical malpractice in the United States, you should promptly find a a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a surgical medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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