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From the operating room to the courtroom

A comprehensive characterization of litigation related to facial plastic surgery procedures

Authors

  • Peter F. Svider BA,

    1. Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A.
    2. Center for Skull Base and Pituitary Surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A.
    3. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A.
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  • Brieze R. Keeley BA,

    1. Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, U.S.A.
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  • Osvaldo Zumba MD,

    1. Department of Surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A.
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  • Andrew C. Mauro BA,

    1. University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.
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  • Michael Setzen MD,

    1. Rhinology Section, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, New York, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Otolaryngology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, U.S.A.
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  • Jean Anderson Eloy MD, FACS

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A.
    2. Center for Skull Base and Pituitary Surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A.
    • Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A.
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  • The authors have no funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Send correspondence to Jean Anderson Eloy, MD, FACS, Associate Professor and Vice Chairman, Director of Rhinology and Sinus Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, 90 Bergen St., Suite 8100, Newark, NJ 07103. E-mail: jean.anderson.eloy@gmail.com

Abstract

Objectives/Hypothesis

Malpractice litigation has increased in recent decades, contributing to higher health-care costs. Characterization of complications leading to litigation is of special interest to practitioners of facial plastic surgery procedures because of the higher proportion of elective cases relative to other subspecialties. In this analysis, we comprehensively examine malpractice litigation in facial plastic surgery procedures and characterize factors important in determining legal responsibility, as this information may be of great interest and use to practitioners in several specialties.

Study Design

Retrospective analysis.

Methods

The Westlaw legal database was examined for court records pertaining to facial plastic surgery procedures. The term “medical malpractice” was searched in combination with numerous procedures obtained from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery website.

Results

Of the 88 cases included, 62.5% were decided in the physician's favor, 9.1% were resolved with an out-of-court settlement, and 28.4% ended in a jury awarding damages for malpractice. The mean settlement was $577,437 and mean jury award was $352,341. The most litigated procedures were blepharoplasties and rhinoplasties. Alleged lack of informed consent was noted in 38.6% of cases; other common complaints were excessive scarring/disfigurement, functional considerations, and postoperative pain.

Conclusions

This analysis characterized factors in determining legal responsibility in facial plastic surgery cases. Several factors were identified as potential targets for minimizing liability. Informed consent was the most reported entity in these malpractice suits. This finding emphasizes the importance of open communication between physicians and their patients regarding expectations as well as documentation of specific risks, benefits, and alternatives. Laryngoscope, 123:1849–1853, 2013

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