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      Medical Malpractice Trends in Thyroidectomies among General Surgeons and Otolaryngologists

      , MD 1 , , MS 2 , , MD, MSCR, MBA 3

      OTO Open

      SAGE Publications

      medicolegal, thyroidectomy, malpractice, litigation, complications

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          This study aims to examine litigation trends with thyroidectomies in the United States from 1984 to 2018.


          We used the Westlaw legal database to collect data on the defendant, plaintiff, case demographics, alleged reasons for malpractice, additional complications, and case outcomes.


          The most common reason for litigation was vocal cord paralysis (51%, n = 28), with the majority ruling in favor of the defendant (64%, P = .042). Of those, 43% of cases (n = 12) were due to unilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) injury, and 39% (n = 11) were due to bilateral RLN injury. Of the claims due to vocal cord paralysis that resulted in indemnity payment (36%), the majority included additional damages, such as lack of informed consent (30%) or subsequent damages from permanent tracheostomy (40%), which is usually a result of bilateral nerve paralysis.


          RLN injury was the most common complication leading to trial, with most cases ruling in favor of the defense. However, most verdicts that favored the plaintiff or those that settled were due to subsequent damages from bilateral nerve paralysis, such as permanent tracheostomy. We encourage surgeons to consider a staged procedure in high-risk cases or cases with signal loss. There needs to be a bigger emphasis on informed consent in the training of surgeons. Surgeons should educate patients at high risk on potential surgical complications that may drastically affect their quality of life.

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          Most cited references 29

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          Thyroid cancer gender disparity.

          Cancer gender disparity in incidence, disease aggressiveness and prognosis has been observed in a variety of cancers. Thyroid cancer is one of the fastest growing cancer diagnoses worldwide. It is 2.9-times more common in women than men. The less aggressive histologic subtypes of thyroid cancer are more common in women, whereas the more aggressive histologic subtypes have similar gender distribution. The gender disparity in incidence, aggressiveness and prognosis is well established for thyroid cancer but the cause of the disparity is poorly understood. The aim of this article is to evaluate the current evidence on the cause of thyroid cancer gender disparity. Dietary and environmental factors do not appear to have a significant role in thyroid cancer gender disparity. Common somatic mutations in BRAF, rearranged in transformation/papillary thyroid carcinomas (RET/PTC) and neurotrophin receptor-tyrosine kinase (NTRK) also do not account for the gender disparity in thyroid cancer. While reproductive factors would seem a logical hypothesis to account for the gender disparity, there appears to be no conclusive effect on the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Recent studies on estrogen receptor status in thyroid cancer show a difference in the receptor subtypes expressed based on the histology of thyroid cancer. Moreover, the response to estrogen is dependent on the specific estrogen receptor expressed in thyroid cancer cells. However, what determines the tumor-specific sex hormone receptor expression is unclear. No established molecular factors appear to explain gender differences in thyroid cancer. Therefore, the application of high-throughput genomic and proteomic approaches to the study of thyroid cancer gender disparity could be helpful for better understanding the molecular basis for gender differences in thyroid and other cancers.
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            The spectrum of thyroid disease in a community: the Whickham survey.

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              Risk factors of paralysis and functional outcome after recurrent laryngeal nerve monitoring in thyroid surgery.

              Recurrent laryngeal nerve monitoring (RLNM) has been suspected to reduce postoperative RLN paralysis (RLNP). However, functional outcome of RLNM in comparison with no nerve identification and visual nerve identification only has not been analyzed. Analysis of 16,448 consecutive multi-institutional operations resulted in 29,998 nerves at risk. Three groups of different RLN treatment were compared: group 1, no RLN identification; group 2, visual RLN identification; and group 3, visual RLN identification and electromyographic monitoring. RLNM was performed with a bipolar needle electrode that was placed through the cricothyroid ligament into the vocal muscle. Risk factors for permanent RLNP were recurrent benign and malignant goiter (odds ratios, [ORs]), 4.7, and 6.7, respectively), primary surgery in thyroid malignancy (OR, 2.0), lobectomy (OR, 1.8), no nerve identification (OR, 1.4), low or medium volume hospital (OR, 1.3), and low volume surgeons (OR, 1.2). Based on these data, visual nerve identification was identified to be the gold standard of RLN treatment in thyroid surgery. RLNM is a promising tool for nerve identification and protection in extended thyroid resection procedures. However, because of the overall low frequency of RLNP, no statistical difference compared with visual nerve identification only was reached in the setting of this study.

                Author and article information

                OTO Open
                OTO Open
                OTO Open
                SAGE Publications (Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA )
                13 May 2020
                Apr-Jun 2020
                : 4
                : 2
                [1 ]Department of Otolaryngology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA
                [2 ]School of Medicine, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
                [3 ]Head and Neck Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                Author notes
                Mohamad R. Chaaban, MD, MSCR, MBA, Head and Neck Institute, Cleveland Clinic, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA. Email: chaabam@ 123456ccf.org
                © The Authors 2020

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages ( https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

                Original Research
                Custom metadata
                April-June 2020


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