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Toward safer practice in otology: A report on 15 years of clinical negligence claims


  • The authors have no funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.



To determine the characteristics of medical negligence claims arising from otological practice.

Study Design:

Retrospective analysis of medical negligence claims contained in the National Health Service Litigation Authority (NHSLA) database.


Claims relating to otology and neurotology between 1995 and 2010 were obtained from the NHSLA database and analyzed for cause of injury, type of injury, outcome of claim and costs.


Over 15 years there were 137 claims in otology, representing 26% of all the claims in otolaryngology. Of these, 116 have been closed, and 84% of closed claims resulted in payment. Of the 97 successful claims, 63 were related to operative complications. This included six cases of wrong side/site surgery, and 15 cases of inadequate informed consent. The most common injuries claimed were hearing loss, facial paralysis, and additional/unnecessary surgery. Middle ear ventilation and mastoid surgery were the procedures most commonly associated with a successful claim. There were 15 successful claims of misdiagnosis/delayed diagnosis, with chronic suppurative otitis media the condition most frequently missed. There were nine successful claims related to outpatient procedures, of which seven were for aural toilet and six claims of medical mismanagement, including three cases of ototoxicity from topical medications. There were also four successful claims for morbidity due to delayed surgery.


This is the first study to report outcomes of negligence claims in otology. Claims in otology are associated with a high success rate. A significant proportion of claims are not related to surgery and represent areas where safety should also be addressed.