- 2020;23;413-422Descriptive Analysis of Federal and State Interventional Pain Malpractice Litigation in the United States: A Pilot Investigation
Dilip Kamath, MD, Sean McIntyre, MD, Saskya Byerly, MD, Nitin Agarwal, MD, Preetha Kamath, MD, Evan Peskin, MD, Raghav Gupta, BS, Souvik Roy, BS, Ruben Schwartz, DO, Alan D. Kaye, MD, PhD, Omar Viswanath, MD, Ivan Urits, MD, and Danielle Bodzin Horn, MD.
BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to examine and appreciate characteristics of malpractice lawsuits brought against interventional pain specialists.
OBJECTIVES: To examine and appreciate characteristics of malpractice lawsuits brought against interventional pain specialists.
STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective review.
SETTING: Jury verdicts and settlement reports of state and federal malpractice cases involving interventional pain practitioners from January 1, 1988, to January 1, 2018 were gathered from the Westlaw online legal database.
METHODS: Jury verdicts and settlement reports of state and federal malpractice cases involving interventional pain practitioners from January 1, 1988, to January 1, 2018 were gathered from the Westlaw online legal database. Data collected for each case included year, state, patient age, patient gender, defendant specialty, legal outcome, award amount, alleged cause of malpractice, and factors in plaintiff’s decision to file. After elimination of duplicates and applying inclusion/exclusion criteria to our initial search yielding over 1,500 cases, a total of 82 cases were included in this study.
RESULTS: A total of 57.3% of cases resulted in a jury verdict in favor of the defendant, whereas 41.5% favored the plaintiff. When comparing cases that were performed in the operating room to cases performed outside the operating room, we found the jury verdicts to favor the plaintiff 83.3% of the time for operating room procedures (P = 0.003). In other words, interventional pain practitioners were more likely to be found at fault for complications from procedures performed in the operating room. To eliminate confounders, a logistical regression was performed and confirmed operating room procedures were an independent predictor of a verdict awarded to the plaintiff (P = 0.008). The median amount awarded to the plaintiff for all cases was $333,000, and the single highest award amount was $36,636,288. The median payout for operating room procedures was $450,000 (P = 0.010), which was significantly different from the median payout for nonoperating room procedures. Procedure categorization demonstrated a statistically significant difference in jury verdicts (P = 0.01411) and procedural error was the leading reason for pursuing litigation, followed by lack of informed consent and unnecessary procedure performed.
LIMITATIONS: There is more than one database that captures medicolegal claims brought against practitioners. Westlaw, which has been previously utilized by other studies, is only one of them and the extent to which overlap exists in unclear. For each, data input are not necessarily consistent and data capture are not complete. As a result, there could exist a skew toward more severe complications and the details of individual cases likely vary. During data extraction, we found that all details of the procedure were not always included. For example, not all cases specified the type of injectate utilized for epidural injection (i.e., local anesthetic, steroid, mixture, and others) or route of injection (i.e., transforaminal vs. interlaminar). Moreover, as previously mentioned, cases that are settled out of court or finalized prior to trial are not necessarily reported by the Westlaw database, and therefore were not always included in our data search.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, interventional pain medicine physicians were favored by jury verdicts for malpractice claims. However, when filtering by procedure or setting, jury verdicts favored the plaintiff in some cases.
KEY WORDS: Interventional pain, medical, malpractice, anesthesiology