Objective: To analyze malpractice cases involving hemodialysis access to prevent future litigation and improve physician education. Methods: Jury verdict reviews from the WESTLAW database from 1 January 2005 to 1 January 2015 were reviewed. The search terms “hemodialysis,” “dialysis,” “graft,” “fistula,” “AVG,” “AVF,” “arteriovenous,” “catheter,” “permacatheter,” and “shiley” were used to compile data on the demographics of the defendant, plaintiff, allegation, complication, and verdict. Results: Sixty-six cases involving the litigation pertaining to hemodialysis catheter, arteriovenous fistula (AVF) or arteriovenous grafts (AVGs) were obtained. Of these, 55% involved catheter-based hemodialysis access, 18% involved AVF, and 27% involved AVG. The most frequent physician defendants were vascular surgeons (36%), internists (14%), nephrologists (14%), general surgeons (9%), and interventional radiologists (6%). Of the patients, 38% involved were male and the average patient age was 56.3 (standard deviation (SD) = 20.1) years. Region of injury was 50% in the neck or chest, 42% in the arm, and 8% in the groin. Injury was listed as death in 79% of cases. Of the deaths, 95% involved bleeding at some point in the chain of events. The most common claims related to the cases were failure to perform the surgery or procedure safely (44%), failure to diagnose and treat in a timely manner (30%), and negligent hemodialysis treatment (11%). The most common complications cited were hemorrhage (62%), loss of function of limb (15%), and ischemia due to steal syndrome (11%). A total of 26 cases (39%) were found for the plaintiff or settled. The median award was US$463,000 with a mean of US$985,299 (SD = US$1,314,557). Conclusion: While popular opinion may indicate that steal syndrome is a commonly litigated complication, our data reveal that the most common injury litigated is death which may frequently be the result of a hemorrhagic episode. In addition to hemorrhage, the remaining most common complications included steal syndrome and loss of limb function. Therefore, steps to better prevent, diagnose and treat bleeding, nerve injury, and steal syndrome in a timely manner are critical to preventing hemodialysis-access-associated litigation.
- Arteriovenous fistula
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