New research highlights risk factors of medical malpractice litigation due to laminectomy

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Prompt and accurate diagnosis, co-ordination of care, timely referral for surgical intervention, and understanding of the indications versus limitations of conservative therapy may help to mitigate the risk of litigation associated with laminectomy. This is the key finding of new research, published by Wayne Cheng (Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Hospital, Loma Linda, USA) et al in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.

The aim of this study was to identify the incidence and characteristics of malpractice lawsuits pertaining to laminectomy performed either as a standalone operation or concurrent with another procedure by querying the Westlaw Edge and VerdictSearch databases.

The research team note that malpractice claims analysis “is performed by several medical specialties to provide insight into patient values, methods to improve quality of care, and risk factors for litigation pertaining to specific procedures or treatments”.

Westlaw and VerdictSearch databases were queried using the keywords ‘laminectomy’ and ‘spine’. Claims were reviewed, with the inclusion criteria defined as a case filed between 2000 and 2022 that involved the plaintiff’s basis of litigation resting on a claim of medical malpractice due to laminectomy. Additional collected data included the case date, verdict ruling, state or federal location of the filed claim, sustained injuries, and payment or settlement amount.

After reviewing 4,732 cases, a total of 201 were identified as malpractice claims due to laminectomy. The most common reasons for litigation were delayed or denied treatment (n= 106), procedural errors (n= 38), inadequate management of postlaminectomy syndrome (n= 26), and incorrect procedural selection (n= 14).

Regarding the verdict ruling, 47.3% (n= 95) of cases ruled in favour of the defendant, 9% (n= 18) resulted in a mixed ruling, 15.9% (n= 32) ruled in favour of the plaintiff, and 9.5% (n= 19) were resolved with an out-of-court settlement. Additionally, an average payment of $4,530,277 resulted from the cases that ruled in favour of the plaintiff, while out-of-court settlements yielded an average payment of $1,193,146.


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