Annually, 20% of all practicing neurosurgeons in the United States are faced with medical malpractice litigation. The average indemnity paid in a closed neurosurgical civil claim is $439,146, the highest of all medical specialties. The majority of claims result from dissatisfaction following spinal surgery, although claims after cranial surgery tend to be costlier. On a societal scale, the increasing prevalence of medical malpractice claims is a catalyst for the practice of defensive medicine, resulting in record-level healthcare costs. Outside of the obvious financial strains, malpractice claims have also been linked to professional disenchantment and career changes for afflicted physicians. Unfortunately, neurosurgical residents receive minimal practical education regarding these matters and are often unprepared and vulnerable to these setbacks in the earlier stages of their careers. In this article, the authors aim to provide neurosurgical residents and junior attendings with an introductory guide to the fundamentals of medical malpractice lawsuits and the implications for neurosurgeons as an adjunct to more formal residency education.
Collin J. Larkin, Anastasios G. Roumeliotis, Constantine L. Karras, Nikhil K. Murthy, Maria Fay Karras, Huy Minh Tran, Ketan Yerneni, and Matthew B. Potts
Zachary A. Abecassis, Amit B. Ayer, Jessica W. Templer, Ketan Yerneni, Nikhil K. Murthy, and Matthew C. Tate
Intraoperative stimulation has emerged as a crucial adjunct in neurosurgical oncology, aiding maximal tumor resection while preserving sensorimotor and language function. Despite increasing use in clinical practice of this stimulation, there are limited data on both intraoperative seizure (IS) frequency and the presence of afterdischarges (ADs) in patients undergoing such procedures. The objective of this study was to determine risk factors for IS or ADs, and to determine the clinical consequences of these intraoperative events.
A retrospective chart review was performed for patients undergoing awake craniotomy (both first time and repeat) at a single institution from 2013 to 2018. Hypothesized risk factors for ADs/ISs in patients were evaluated for their effect on ADs and ISs, including tumor location, tumor grade (I–IV), genetic markers (isocitrate dehydrogenase 1/2, O 6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase [MGMT] promoter methylation, chromosome 1p/19q codeletion), tumor volume, preoperative seizure status (yes/no), and dosage of preoperative antiepileptic drugs for each patient. Clinical outcomes assessed in patients with IS or ADs were duration of surgery, length of stay, presence of perioperative deficits, and postoperative seizures. Chi-square analysis was performed for binary categorical variables, and a Student t-test was used to assess continuous variables.
A total of 229 consecutive patients were included in the analysis. Thirty-five patients (15%) experienced ISs. Thirteen (37%) of these 35 patients had experienced seizures that were appreciated clinically and noted on electrocorticography simultaneously, while 8 patients (23%) experienced ISs that were electrographic alone (no obvious clinical change). MGMT promoter methylation was associated with an increased prevalence of ISs (OR 3.3, 95% CI 1.2–7.8, p = 0.02). Forty patients (18%) experienced ADs. Twenty-three percent of patients (9/40) with ISs had ADs prior to their seizure, although ISs and ADs were not statistically associated (p = 0.16). The presence of ADs appeared to be correlated with a shorter length of stay (5.1 ± 2.6 vs 6.1 ± 3.7 days, p = 0.037). Of the clinical features assessed, none were found to be predictive of ADs. Neither IS nor AD, or the presence of either IS or AD (65/229 patients), was a predictor for increased length of stay, presence of perioperative deficits, or postoperative seizures.
ISs and ADs, while commonly observed during intraoperative stimulation for brain mapping, do not negatively affect patient outcomes.