Never events in plastic surgery: An analysis of surgical burns and medical malpractice litigation

Martina Brozynski, Anais Di Via loschpe, Olachi Oleru, Nargiz Seyidova, Curtis Rew, Peter J. Taub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Burns and fires in the operating room are a known risk and their prevention has contributed to many additional safety measures. Despite these safeguards, burn injuries contribute significantly to the medical malpractice landscape. The aim of the present study is to analyze malpractice litigation related to burn and fire injuries in plastic and reconstructive surgery, identify mechanisms of injury, and develop strategies for prevention. Methods: The Westlaw and LexisNexis databases were queried for jury verdicts and settlements in malpractice lawsuits related to burn and fire injuries that occurred during plastic surgery procedures. The Boolean terms included “burn & injury & plastic”, “fire & injury & “plastic surg!”” in Westlaw, and “burn & injury & “plastic surg!””, “fire & injury & “plastic surg!”” in LexisNexis. Results: A total of 46 cases met the inclusion criteria for this study. Overheated surgical instruments and cautery devices were the most common mechanisms for litigation. Plastic surgeons were defendants in 40 (87%) cases. Of the included cases, 43% were ruled in favor of the defendant, while 33% were ruled in favor of the plaintiff. Mishandling of cautery devices 6 (13%), heated surgical instruments 6 (13%), and topical acids 2 (4%) were the most common types of errors encountered. Conclusion: Never events causing burn injury in plastic and reconstructive surgery are ultimately caused by human error or neglect. The misuse of overheated surgical instruments and cauterizing devices should be the focus for improving patient safety and reducing the risk of medical malpractice. Forcing functions and additional safeguards should be considered to minimize the risk of costly litigation and unnecessary severe harm to patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBurns
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • Burn Injury
  • Fire Injury
  • Litigation
  • Malpractice in plastic surgery
  • Never events
  • Plastic surgery

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