Medical Malpractice in Nerve Injury of the Upper Extremity

Emily M. Krauss, Vikram Shankar, Jennifer Megan Mackinnon Patterson, Susan E. Mackinnon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Medical malpractice accounts for more than $55 billion of annual health care costs. Updated malpractice risk to surgeons and physicians related to upper extremity peripheral nerve injury has not been published. Methods: A comprehensive database analysis of upper extremity nerve injury claims between 1995 and 2014 in the United States was conducted using the Medical Professional Liability Association Data Sharing Project, representing 24 major insurance companies. Results: Nerve injury in the upper extremity accounted for 614 (0.3%) malpractice claims (total of 188 323). Common presenting diagnoses included carpal tunnel syndrome (41%), upper extremity fractures (19%), and traumatic nerve injuries to the shoulder or upper limb (8%). Improper performance (49% of total claims) and claims without evidence of medical error (19%) were the most common malpractice suits. Orthopedic surgeons were the most frequently targeted specialists (42%). In all, 65% of nerve injury claims originated from operative procedures in a hospital, 59% of claims were dismissed or withdrawn prior to trial, and 30% resulted in settlements. Thirty-three percent of claims resulted in an indemnity payment to an injured party, with an average payout of $203 592 per successful suit. Only 8% of claims resulted in a completed trial and verdict, and verdicts were overwhelmingly in favor of the defendant (83%). Conclusions: Most malpractice claims from peripheral nerve injuries in the United States arise from the management of common diagnoses, occur in the operating room, and allege improper performance. Strategies to reduce malpractice risk should emphasize the management of common conditions and patient-physician communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-431
Number of pages7
JournalHand
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • litigation
  • medical malpractice
  • nerve injury
  • practice management
  • upper extremity surgery

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