Why Do Vascular Surgeons Get Sued? Analysis of Claims and Outcomes in Malpractice Litigation

John Phair, Eric B. Trestman, Edvard Skripochnik, Evan C. Lipsitz, Issam Koleilat, Larry A. Scher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: The objective of the study was to analyze causes and outcomes of malpractice claims against vascular surgeons in the United States. Methods: Cases entered into the Westlaw database from January 1, 1999 to December 31, 2014 were reviewed. Search terms “vascular” and “surgeon” were used. Data were compiled on the allegation, subject matter, and outcome of each case. Additional data including demographics of the defendant were obtained from the U.S. News Health reports on practicing physicians. Results: Of a total of 785 cases identified from the Westlaw database using the search terms “vascular” and “surgeon” 485 (61.8%) were identified where a vascular surgeon was the defendant or expert witness. Of these, 135 (27.8%) had a vascular surgeon identified as a defendant. Among these 135 cases, 88 (65.2%) were found for the defendant with 31 (23%) and 15 (11.1%) being found for the plaintiff or settled, respectively. Of the 31 cases found for the plaintiff, the median award was $750,000 and mean award was $1,830,000. Mean time from incident to verdict was 4.8 years. The most common procedures which led to litigation were open or endovascular peripheral revascularization (PR) (14.8%), carotid interventions (CIs) (11.85%), aortic interventions (AI) (11.1%), vascular trauma (9.63%), dialysis access (8.15%), and venous surgery (5.93%). The most common allegation was “failure to diagnose and treat” (48.9%), followed by complication of open surgery (31.85%) and negligent procedure (25.19%). The most common injuries reported were death (31.85%), major amputation (23.7%), neurovascular injury (14.8%), and bleeding (5.9%). Conclusions: Analysis of vascular surgery malpractice litigation in the Westlaw database revealed details regarding the subject matter and outcomes of these cases. Through this closed claims analysis, the most common procedures leading to litigation were found to be PR, CI, and AI and not thoracic outlet syndrome procedures as commonly believed. Furthermore, the most common allegations were a “failure to diagnose and treat” and “open surgical complication”. Analysis of the salient features and outcomes in these cases can provide a framework for heightened awareness of issues which lead to malpractice claims and can ultimately improve patient care and safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAnnals of Vascular Surgery
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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