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Why do Vascular Surgeons Get Sued? Analysis of Claims and Outcomes in Malpractice Litigation
John Phair1, Edvard Skripochnik, M.D.2, Eric B. Trestman, M.D.1, Evan C. Lipsitz, M.D.1, Larry A. Scher, M.D.1.
1Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA, 2Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY, USA.

Objective(s):
To analyze causes and outcomes of malpractice claims against vascular surgeons in the United States.
Methods:
Cases entered into the Westlaw database from January 1st 1999 to December 31st 2014 were reviewed; Search terms "vascular" and "surgeon" were used. Data was compiled on the allegation, subject matter and outcome of each case. Additional data including demographics of the defendant was obtained from U.S. news health reports on practicing physicians.
Results:
A total of 785 cases were identified. Of these, 485 cases (61.8%) were identified where a vascular surgeon was either the defendant or an expert witness. These cases form the basis for this report. There were 135 (27.8%) cases where a vascular surgeon was identified as a defendant. Verdicts in these 135 cases, were found 88 (65.2%) for the defendant,31(23%) for the plaintiff, and 16(11.8%) settled. Of the 31 cases found for the plaintiff the median award was ,000 and mean award was ,830,000. Mean time from incident to verdict was 4.8 years. The most common procedures which led to litigation were open or endovascular peripheral revascularization (PR) 20 (14.8%), carotid interventions (CI) 16 (11.85%), aortic interventions (AI) 15 (11.1%), vascular trauma (VT) 13 (9.63%), dialysis access (DA) 11 (8.15%) and venous surgery (VS) 8 5.93%. The most common allegation was "failure to diagnose and treat" 66 (48.9%), followed by complication of open surgery 43 (31.85%) and negligent procedure 34 (25.19%). The most common injuries reported were death 43 (31.85%), major amputation 32 (23.7%), neurovascular injury 20 (14.8%) and bleeding 8 (5.9%).
Conclusions:
Analysis of vascular surgery malpractice litigation in the Westlaw data base revealed details regarding the subject matter and outcomes of these cases. Through this closed claims analysis, the most common procedures leading to litigation were found to be PR, CI, and AI. Furthermore, the most common allegations were a "failure to diagnose and treat" and "open surgical complication". Analysis of the issues and outcomes in these cases can provide a framework for heightened awareness of issues which lead to malpractice claims and can ultimately improve patient care and safety.


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