Malpractice litigation in the endovascular era

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Objective:The standard of care in the treatment of vascular disease continues to evolve as endovascular therapies develop. Currently, it is unclear how medical malpractice litigation has adapted to the “endovascular era.” This retrospective case review is the most comprehensive analysis to date of malpractice actions involving endovascular procedures performed by vascular surgeons (VSs), interventional radiologists (IRs), interventional cardiologists (ICs), and cardiothoracic surgeons (CTSs).Methods:The legal databases LexisNexis and Westlaw were searched for all published legal cases in the United States involving endovascular procedures. The search was limited to state and federal cases up to and including the year 2016. Keywords included “malpractice,” “vascular,” “endovascular,” “catheter,” “catheterization,” “stent,” “angiogram,” “angiography,” and “surgery.” Cases involving tax revenue, insurance disputes, Social Security Disability, and hospital employment contract disputes were excluded. Data were analyzed using χ2 test.Results:There were 2115 initial search results identified, and 369 cases were included in final analysis. The rate of endovascular procedure-related lawsuits (per 1000 active physicians in the specialty) was highest for ICs (105.56), whereas rates for VSs and IRs were comparable (18.47 and 16.85, respectively); 93% of the IC cases were related to coronary interventions. Overall, 55% (148/271 classifiable cases) of actions were related to elective procedures. For VSs specifically, 46% (25/54) of cases arose from diagnostic angiography and inferior vena cava filter placement, two relatively minor procedure types. Overall, 83% (176/211 finalized cases) of verdicts favored defendants, with no significant differences across the specialties; 43% (157/368) of total cases involved death of the patient. Among the four specialties, there was a significant (P = .0004) difference in the primary allegation (informed consent, preprocedure negligence, intraprocedure complications, or postprocedure complications) underlying the litigation. For CTSs and VSs, there was a predominance of informed consent and preprocedure negligence allegations (70% [7/10] and 52% [28/54], respectively). Intraprocedure negligence was the most common allegation for IRs (59% [23/39]), whereas allegations were more evenly distributed among ICs.Conclusions:Key issues were identified regarding malpractice litigation involving the specialties that commonly perform endovascular procedures. Despite the increasing number of ICs doing peripheral interventions, a large majority of IC cases were related to coronary treatments. A surprisingly large percentage of VS cases were related to seemingly minor cases. There were significant interspecialty differences in the primary underlying allegations. As the scope of endovascular procedures broadens and deepens, it is important for clinicians to be aware of legal considerations relevant to their practice.

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