Review of Malpractice Litigation in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Venous & Lymphatic Disease

Ann Vasc Surg. 2023 Jan:88:274-282. doi: 10.1016/j.avsg.2022.07.002. Epub 2022 Aug 2.


Background: Malpractice claims involving nonthrombotic venous and lymphatic diseases and interventions have not been reported previously. We investigated common reasons for litigation, medical specialties involved, patient injuries, and case outcomes in malpractice litigation involving venous and lymphatic disease.

Methods: Litigation cases entered into the Westlaw database from June 8th, 1984 to February 15th, 2018 were analyzed. Search terms included relevant words and phrases related to nonthrombotic venous, thoracic outlet syndrome, and lymphatic disease and treatment. Data on physician specialty, malpractice claims, and patient injuries jury outcomes, amount awarded to the plaintiff, and jury fees were collected and compared for each category.

Results: A total of 144 cases were identified. 41 cases involved varicose veins, 11 spider veins, 35 thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), 17 other venous diseases, and 40 lymphatic diseases. Physician defendants were frequently vascular surgeons (23%) and general surgeons (15%). The majority of litigation claims involved "post-procedure complication" (77%), "lack of informed consent" (25%), "failure to diagnose & treat" (15%), and "intraoperative complications" (13%). The most common injuries were skin damage (27.8%), nerve damage (25%), and lymphedema (24%). Patient death occurred in 6% of cases. Out of venous malpractice cases with post-procedure complications, stab phlebectomy (27%) was the most common intervention followed by foam sclerotherapy (21%), rib resection (21%), laser spider vein removal (5%), and endovenous laser ablation therapy (EVLT)(3%). Of varicose vein cases, 15% included deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism as post-procedure complications. In TOS rib resections, 65% of cases referenced nerve damage and 12% involved arterial injury. For lymphatic disease cases, general surgeons were frequently identified defendants (25%). Lymphedema (93%) and lymphangitis (7%) occurred as post-procedure complications after breast, gynecologic, orthopedic, and radiation procedures. A majority of complications occurred after breast cases (40%). Verdicts overall ruled in favor of the defendant in 71% (102/144) of cases and the plaintiff in 20% (29/144) of cases. Out of cases ruled in favor of the plaintiff, 31% were lymphatics, 24% varicose veins, and 24% TOS cases. Only 8% (12/144) of cases were settled and one outcome was unknown. The mean award was $820,193 (standard deviation SD $1,226,008, Range $12,853 - $6,500,000).

Conclusions: The majority of venous and lymphatic litigation cases involve claims of post-procedure complications. Venous complications occurred after open and endovascular treatment of varicose veins, spider vein treatment, and surgical management of TOS. Lymphedema occurred after breast, oncology, and orthopedic procedures. These cases reflect opportunities for intervention to help potentially prevent litigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Diseases*
  • Lymphedema*
  • Malpractice*
  • Surgeons*
  • Telangiectasis*
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Varicose Veins* / diagnostic imaging
  • Varicose Veins* / therapy