Journal Article

Patterns of technical error among surgical malpractice claims: an analysis of strategies to prevent injury to surgical patients.

Regenbogen SE; Greenberg CC; Studdert DM; Lipsitz SR; Zinner MJ; Gawande AA.

Analyzing closed malpractice claims has been a commonly used method to study adverse outcomes in ambulatory care, anesthesia, emergency medicine, and surgery. This study evaluated claims associated with a technical error and determined that most occurred in routine operations done by experienced surgeons. Mitigating circumstances included equipment problems or patient complexity issues, such as complex anatomy or repeat surgery. The authors point out that traditional interventions to reduce such errors focus on volume- or experience-based restrictions, but that these interventions will only address a minority of the errors they observed. An accompanying editorial [link provided below] discusses the implications of this study and the origins of closed claims.