Spine surgery has been disproportionately impacted by medical liability and malpractice litigation, with the majority of claims and payouts related to procedural error. One common area for the potential avoidance of malpractice claims and subsequent payouts involves misplaced pedicle and/or lateral mass instrumentation. However, the medicolegal impact of misplaced screws on spine surgery has not been directly reported in the literature. The authors of the current study aimed to describe this impact in the United States, as well as to suggest a potential method for mitigating the problem.
This retrospective analysis of 68 closed medicolegal cases related to misplaced screws in spine surgery showed that neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons were equally named as the defendant (n = 32 and 31, respectively), and cases were most commonly due to misplaced lumbar pedicle screws (n = 41, 60.3%). Litigation resulted in average payouts of $1,204,422 ± $753,832 between 1995 and 2019, when adjusted for inflation. The median time to case closure was 56.3 (35.2–67.2) months when ruled in favor of the plaintiff (i.e., patient) compared to 61.5 (51.4–77.2) months for defendant (surgeon) verdicts (p = 0.117).