Courts side with defendants in most malpractice lawsuits related to image-guided interventions

The courts typically side with defendant physicians when patients file medical malpractice lawsuits related to image-guided interventions, according to a new study published by the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology.

“Malpractice in interventional radiology (IR) is an understudied topic compared to other specialties; however, its importance is increasing as IR expands its role in clinical medicine and patient care,” wrote author Casey S. Branach, MD, JD, department of radiology at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, and colleagues.

The research team studied a final cohort of 184 cases involving common image-guided procedures that occurred in the United States from 1963 to 2018. Social security, disability, employee contract, product liability, criminal and government employment claims were not included. More than 61 percent of the procedures were vascular interventions, making it the most common by a significant margin, while 12 percent of the procedures were related to inferior vena cava (IVC) filters.

The authors also noted that the most common practice settings for defendant physicians were a community hospital (33 percent), private practice (30 percent) and academic or university-affiliated hospitals (16.3 percent).

“Factors within a practice setting that affect litigation risk include the ability to discuss incidents with colleagues, a hospital’s response to malpractice allegations, available legal resources, and the complexity of patient care,” the authors wrote. “Large academic or university centers and complex care facilities dedicate resources to manage patient claims as they arise and facilitate the settlement of claims through arbitration or mediation. They also employ experienced legal counsel who are familiar with the legal system and assess whether a claim should be settled or litigated in court.”

In addition, 81.6 percent of all malpractice claims with a reported outcome had a verdict that favored the defendant physician.

“This figure is in accordance with previous results finding that verdicts favor the physician in approximately 80 to 90 percent  of cases that proceed to jury verdict,” the authors wrote.

Other noteworthy findings included:

  • Complications involving diagnostic arteriography or angiography made up more than 58 percent of all vascular malpractice claims, and peripheral arterial disease interventions made up more than 16 percent.
  • Incorrect filter placement was the most common reason (40.9 percent) for IVC filter claims.
  • More than 80 percent of claims were filed from 1991 to 2018.