15 years of litigation following laparoscopic cholecystectomy in England

Bilal Alkhaffaf, Bart Decadt
Annals of Surgery 2010, 251 (4): 682-5

OBJECTIVE: We aimed to analyze trends in litigation following laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) in England and compare our findings with data from the United States.

BACKGROUND: Several studies from the United States have highlighted the medico-legal repercussions of complications following LC. In 2007-2008, litigation claims cost the National Health Service in England over 660 million Great British Pounds (GBP) (1.1 billion USD). Despite this, there has been little examination of litigation following LC in England.

METHODS: Data from the National Health Service Litigation Authority on clinical negligence claims between 1995 and 2009 following LC were obtained and analyzed.

RESULTS: Four hundred eighteen claims were made of which 303 were settled. One hundred ninety-eight (65%) were found to be in the claimants favor for a total cost of 20.4 million GBP (33.4 million USD). Litigation claims have leveled since 2001. Operator error was the most likely cause to result in a claim and the only cause associated with a successful claim (P = 0.023). A delay in the recognition of complications was the second most common reason for initiation of a claim. Bile duct injury was the most frequent injury resulting in litigation and the most likely injury associated with a successful claim (P < 0.001). The average payout for a successful claim was 102,827 GBP/168,337 USD. Findings from US studies were similar, although the magnitude of payouts was 4 times higher.

CONCLUSION: Strategies that minimize bile duct injury and speed up recognition of injuries should be adopted to reduce the litigation burden and improve patient care.

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