Background: Respiratory complications were associated with half of pediatric malpractice claims from the 1970s to 1980s in the ASA Closed Claims Database. Advances in pediatric anesthesia practice have occurred in the 1980s and 1990s and may be reflected in liability trends.
Methods: We reviewed 532 pediatric (age < or =16 yr) malpractice claims from our database over three decades (1973-2000), using logistic regression analysis to evaluate trends over time. Claims from 1990 to 2000 (1990s) were reviewed in detail to determine damaging events and injuries. Multiple logistic regression analysis evaluated factors associated with claims for death/brain damage (BD) compared with claims for less severe injuries.
Results: From 1973 to 2000, there was a decrease in the proportion of claims for death/BD (P = 0.002) and respiratory events (P < 0.001), particularly for inadequate ventilation/oxygenation (P < 0.001). However, claims for death (41%) and BD (21%) remained the dominant injuries in pediatric anesthesia claims in the 1990s. Half of the claims in 1990-2000 involved patients 3 yr or younger and one-fifth were ASA 3-5. Cardiovascular (26%) and respiratory (23%) events were the most common damaging events. Factors associated with claims for death/BD in the 1990s when compared with claims for less severe injuries were cardiovascular events (odds ratio [OR] = 6.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.5-17.8), respiratory events (OR = 3.7, 95% CI = 1.5-9.4), and ASA status 3-5 (OR = 3.1, 95% CI = 1.3-7.8).
Conclusions: Death/BD remained the dominant injuries in pediatric anesthesia malpractice claims in the 1990s. Cardiovascular events joined respiratory events as the major sources of liability.