The aim of this study was to identify the incidence and characteristics of malpractice lawsuits pertaining to laminectomy performed either as a stand-alone operation or concurrent with another procedure by querying the Westlaw Edge and VerdictSearch databases. Malpractice claims analysis is performed by several medical specialties to provide insight into patient values, methods to improve quality of care, and risk factors for litigation pertaining to specific procedures or treatments.
Westlaw and VerdictSearch were queried using the keywords "laminectomy" and "spine." Claims were reviewed, with the inclusion criteria defined as a case filed between 2000 and 2022 that involved the plaintiff’s basis of litigation resting on a claim of medical malpractice due to laminectomy. Additional collected data included the case date, verdict ruling, state or federal location of the filed claim, sustained injuries, and payment or settlement amount.
After review of 4732 cases, 201 were identified as malpractice claims due to laminectomy. The most common reasons for litigation were delayed or denied treatment (n = 106), procedural errors (n = 38), inadequate management of postlaminectomy syndrome (n = 26), and incorrect procedural selection (n = 14). Regarding the verdict ruling, 47.3% (n = 95) of cases ruled in favor of the defendant, 9.0% (n = 18) resulted in a mixed ruling, 15.9% (n = 32) ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and 9.5% (n = 19) were resolved with an out-of-court settlement. An average payment of $4,530,277 resulted from the cases that ruled in favor of the plaintiff, while out-of-court settlements yielded an average payment of $1,193,146.
This study suggests that there are several well-documented risk factors for malpractice claims attributed to laminectomy. The study findings suggest that prompt and accurate diagnosis, coordination of care, timely referral for surgical intervention, and understanding of the indications versus limitations of conservative therapy may help to mitigate the risk of litigation associated with laminectomy.