Orthopedists specialize in the diagnosis, correction, and treatment of patients with disorders of the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. These doctors regularly perform joint repair and replacement operations including total knee replacement, total hip replacement, knee arthroscopy, spine surgery, shoulder replacement, and ACL reconstruction. A new study by The Doctors Company looked at 1,895 medical negligence cases against orthopedists and found that the three most common patient allegations were “improper performance of surgery, improper management of the surgical patient, and diagnosis-related issues, such as failure or delay in diagnosis or wrong diagnosis. The claim of improper performance of surgery was often made by the patient when the outcome differed from the patient’s expectations.” Sports medicine surgeon Dr. Ralph A. Gambardella of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles commented on the study:
While improper performance of surgery was the top patient allegation, in most cases the risks had been disclosed to patients prior to the procedure, but the patient may not have understood. In nearly a third of claims, patients did not adhere to the treatment plan, and this behavior was more likely when there was inadequate communication.
The Doctors Company is a physician owned medical malpractice insurer with 77,000 members.
When a patient alleges medical negligence, it is often in response to a medical outcome different than their expectations. The orthopedic expert witness is called upon to examine the evidence and consult on the results of the surgery. As with any surgery, there are potential risks such as bleeding, infection, etc. In orthopedic surgery, complications may include nerve damage, lack of full range of motion, the development of arthritis, or scar formation. The orthopedic expert is trained to evaluate these conditions and give an informed explanation on whether the medical standard of care was breached in surgeries such as cervical spinal fusion, laminectomy, discectomy, total joint replacement, etc.