The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 34, Issue 7, S102 - S107

Medical Malpractice Litigation Following Primary Total Joint Arthroplasty: A Comprehensive, Nationwide Analysis of the Past Decade

Samuel, Linsen T. et al.
Hip Knee

Background

The purpose of this study is to (1) characterize the most common reasons of medical malpractice litigation against adult reconstruction surgeons and (2) report on the outcomes of these lawsuits.

Methods

The Westlaw legal research database was queried for cases between 2008 and 2018 related to total hip and knee arthroplasty (THA and TKA) in the United States. Causes of the lawsuit, patient characteristics, demographics, state/outcome of verdict or settlement, and indemnity payments were noted.

Results

A total of 148 records (81 females [55%], 67 males [45%]; 83 TKAs [56%], 65 THAs [44%]) were included in the final analysis. For all patients, infection was the leading cause for malpractice litigation (22%) followed by nerve injury (20%). For TKA, infection was the most common cause of lawsuit (33%). In THA cases, nerve injury was the most common reason for lawsuit (38%), followed by leg-length discrepancy (26%). Procedural errors were alleged in 72% of cases, while diagnostic and post-surgical errors were cited in 55% and 32% of cases. A defense verdict occurred in 74% of cases, plaintiff verdict in 21%, and parties settled in 5%.

Conclusion

Infection and nerve injury were the most common reasons for litigation in TKA and THA, respectively. The most likely outcome of these lawsuits was a jury verdict in favor of the surgeon. Regardless, surgeons should be cognizant of the potential for lawsuit due to these complications and should ensure they inform patients of these potential complications of TJA preoperatively.

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