Review of Malpractice Lawsuits in the Diagnosis and Management of Aortic Aneurysms and Aortic Dissections.

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Aortic aneurysms and dissections are prevalent causes of morbidity and mortality. The management of aortic pathologies may be called into question in malpractice suits. Malpractice claims were analyzed to understand common reasons for litigation, medical specialties involved, patient injuries, and outcomes.Litigation cases in the Westlaw database from September 1st, 1987 to October 23 rd, 2019 were analyzed. Search terms included “aortic aneurysm” and “aortic dissection.” Data on plaintiff, defendant, litigation claims, patient injuries, misdiagnoses, and case outcomes were collected and compared for aortic aneurysms, aortic dissections, and overall cases.A total of 346 cases were identified, 196 involving aortic aneurysms and 150 aortic dissections. Physician defendants were emergency medicine (29%), cardiology (20%), internal medicine (14%), radiology (11%), cardiothoracic (10%) and vascular surgery (10%). Litigation claims included “failure to diagnose and treat” (61%), “delayed diagnosis and treatment” (21%), “post-operative complications after open repair” (10%) and “negligent post-operative care” (10%). Patients with aneurysms presented with abdominal (63%) and back pain (37%), while dissections presented with chest pain (78%), abdominal pain (15%), and shortness of breath (14%). Misdiagnoses included gastrointestinal (12%), other cardiovascular (9%), and musculoskeletal conditions (9%), but many were not specified (58%). Overall, 83% of cases were wrongful death suits. Injuries included loss of consortium (23%), emotional distress (19%), and bleeding (17%). In 53% of the cases, the jury ruled in favor of the defendant. 25% of cases ruled for the plaintiff. 22% of cases resulted in a settlement. The mean rewarded for each case was $1,644,590.66 (SD: $5,939,134.58; Range: $17,500-$68,035,462).For aortic pathologies, post-operative complications were not prominent among the reasons why suits were brought forth. This suggests improvements in education across all involved medical specialties may allow for improved diagnostic accuracy and efficient treatment, which could then translate to a decrease in associated litigation cases.

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Authors: Krystina Choinski, Omar Sanon, Rami Tadros, Issam Koleilat, John Phair