Lawsuits After Primary and Revision Total Knee Arthroplasty: A Malpractice Claims Analysis

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Abstract

Introduction:

As the number of total knee arthroplasties (TKAs) increases, the number of associated complications will also increase. Our goal with this study was to identify common causes of and financial trends relating to malpractice claims filed after TKA.

Methods:

We analyzed malpractice claims filed for alleged neglectful primary and revision TKA surgeries performed between 1982 and 2012 by orthopaedic surgeons insured by a large New York state malpractice carrier.

Results:

We identified 69 primary and 8 revision TKAs in the malpractice carrier’s database. All cases were performed between 1982 and 2012; all claims were closed between 1989-2015. The most frequent factor leading to lawsuits for primary TKA was chronic pain or dissatisfaction in 12 cases, followed by nerve palsy in 8, postoperative in-hospital falls in 5, and deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism in 3. Medical complications included acute respiratory distress syndrome, cardiac arrest, and decubitus ulcers. Contracture was most common after revision TKA (three of eight cases). Mean indemnity was $325,369, and the largest single settlement was $2.42 million. The average expense relating to the defense of these cases was $66,365.

Conclusions:

Orthopaedic surgeons should continue to focus attention on prevention of complications and on preoperative patient education. Preoperative counseling regarding the risks of incomplete pain relief could reduce substantially the number of suits relating to primary TKAs.

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