Complications - Infection| Volume 33, ISSUE 5, P1520-1523, May 2018

Infection Following Total Joint Arthroplasty Is the Main Cause of Litigation: Data From One Metropolitan Area

Published:December 13, 2017DOI:



      A prior survey of members of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons revealed that 78% of responding surgeons were named as a defendant in at least 1 lawsuit, and 69% of these lawsuits were dismissed or settled out of court. The most common sources of litigation were nerve injury, limb-length discrepancy, and infection. This study examined common reasons for lawsuits after total joint arthroplasty (TJA) in a single metropolitan area.


      A retrospective review of lawsuits filed between 2009 and 2015 in a 5-county metropolitan area was performed, including 30 hospitals and 113 TJA surgeons. Complaints underwent a manual review to determine the number of lawsuits and the specific allegations filed against each surgeon.


      Thirty-one (27.4%) surgeons were named as a defendant in at least 1 lawsuit. Eighty-three total lawsuits were filed during the period, 50 of which were dismissed or settled outside of court. Top reasons for lawsuits were, in descending order, infection, nerve injury, chronic pain, vascular injury, periprosthetic fracture, retention of foreign body, dislocation, limb-length discrepancy, venous thromboembolism, loosening, compartment syndrome, and other medical complaints.


      Infection appears to be the basis of most lawsuits after TJA. Surgeons should be aware of the potential for a lawsuit for complications and should strive to better communicate with patients regarding preoperative informed consent and disclosure after adverse events. Surgeons should minimize performing surgery in patients at high risk of complications, such as patients with a higher likelihood of developing postoperative infection or patients on chronic pain medications.


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