What has characterized the landscape of malpractice litigation in otolaryngology over the past decade?
BOTTOM LINE: In a sample of medical malpractice cases involving otolaryngologists, trends in error type may warrant further investigation to identify specific areas of practice involvement and education.
Explore This IssueDecember 2020
BACKGROUND: Medical malpractice lawsuits occur with disproportionate frequency among surgeons and high-risk subspecialists, and otolaryngologists are among those groups most affected. Although studies have examined malpractice litigation within various otolaryngological subspecialties, none has comprehensively evaluated the landscape of medical malpractice in otolaryngology over the past decade.
STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective database review.
SETTING: Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Boston.
SYNOPSIS: Researchers accessed records from legal databases across the U.S. to identify 94 medical malpractice cases related to otolaryngology with evidence of court proceedings that took place between 2010 and 2019. Cases settled prior to and/or outside of court were not included. Data were collected on defendant demographics, case characteristics, alleged complications, and outcomes. Cases were categorized by subspecialty, among which rhinology was the most frequently implicated (28%), followed by head and neck surgery (17%) and facial plastics (7%). The most common procedures identified were endoscopic sinus surgery, tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, and thyroidectomy, and the most common complication for each was penetration of adjacent orbital and/or intracranial structures, hemorrhage, and laryngeal nerve injury, respectively. The most prevalent alleged error type was improper surgical performance (49%), followed by failure to diagnose, refer, or treat (32%). Of the 56 cases for which outcome and liability data were available, 50 were ruled in favor of the defendant otolaryngologist. Study limitations included lack of standardization among databases and lack of case outcome data.
CITATION: Ceremsak J, Miller LE, Gomez ED. A review of otolaryngology malpractice cases with associated court proceedings from 2010 to 2019 [published online ahead of print November 4, 2020.] Laryngoscope. doi: 10.1002/lary.29232.