More People Filing Medical Malpractice Claims for Chronic Pain
Both the number of pain management specialists and medical malpractice claims for pain management-related injury and death increased between 1980 and 2012, according to results of a study presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ 2014 Annual Meeting. But one statistic does not explain the other.
“We found that pain claims increased by 6.3 percent for every 10 years, whereas the number of pain anesthesiologists increased by only 2.0 percent per 10 years,” Dr. Kelly Pollak told attendees.
Since claims have changed in type and increased in severity, researchers hope anesthesiologists and doctors administering analgesics and opioids will take note of the study’s findings.
For instance, medication-related claims increased from 2 percent to 17 percent, whereas lumbar injection claims decreased from 37 percent to 17 percent.
“In the past, many claims involved epidural steroid injections, but those injuries tended to be minor and temporary,” Medscape said October 16, 2014. “However, recent closed-claims analyses have identified an increase in major adverse outcomes … Deaths and severe nerve injury increased significantly,” per Pollak.
Researchers initially thought the increase in lawsuits was due to an increase in the number of anesthesiologists providing treatment for chronic pain. Since they discovered otherwise, they believe future research should be devoted to learning about the doctors who are providing the care.
“Are these all board-certified pain specialists? Are they other physicians? That’s a very important factor that should be examined,” Dr. Michael Avram said.
Opioid and Sedative Mix a Deadly Combination
While analyzing more than thirty years of chronic pain management malpractice claims, Drs. Pollak and Avram noted that death was the most common side effect from doctors prescribing both opioids and sedatives.
“When a patient suffers an injury as a result of a prescribed medication, questions will always arise as to whether the medications were needed, whether a proper history and physical examination was conducted, or whether the physician properly documented the encounter,” one attorney stated. “Any failure on the part of the physician can open him [or] her up to liability.”