Damned if you monitor, damned if you don't: medical malpractice and intraoperative neuromonitoring for spinal surgery

Jeffrey Hatef, Miki Katzir, Nathaniel Toop, Monica Islam, Trevor Clark, Catherine Roscoe, Safdar Khan, Ehud Mendel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to identify trends in medical malpractice litigation related to intraoperative neuromonitoring. METHODS The Westlaw Edge legal research service was queried for malpractice litigation related to neuromonitoring in spine surgery. Cases were reviewed to determine if the plaintiff's assertion of negligence was due to either failure to use neuromonitoring or negligent monitoring. Comparative statistics and a detailed qualitative analysis of the resulting cases were performed. RESULTS Twenty-six cases related to neuromonitoring were identified. Spinal fusion was the procedure in question in all cases, and defendants were nearly evenly divided between orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons. Defense verdicts were most common (54%), followed by settlements (27%) and plaintiff verdicts (19%). Settlements resulted in a mean $7,575,000 damage award, while plaintiff verdicts resulted in a mean $4,180,213 damage award. The basis for litigation was failure to monitor in 54% of the cases and negligent monitoring in 46%. There were no significant differences in case outcomes between the two allegations of negligence. CONCLUSIONS The use and interpretation of intraoperative neuromonitoring findings can be the basis for a medical malpractice litigation. Spine surgeons can face malpractice risks by not monitoring when required by the standard of care and by interpreting or reacting to neuromonitoring findings inappropriately. https://thejns.org/doi/abs/10.3171/2020.8.FOCUS20580

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E19-0
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Volume49
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • failure to monitor
  • litigation
  • malpractice
  • negligence
  • negligent monitoring
  • neuromonitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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