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What's behind most plastic surgery malpractice claims?

Most people who undergo plastic surgery do so to feel better about themselves, to remove a physical flaw or simply minimize the many signs of aging that are unavoidable. However, too many of these surgeries result in serious and even fatal injuries.

A newly-published comprehensive study by The Doctor's Company, a physician-run malpractice insurer, looks at the leading causes of plastic surgery-related medical malpractice claims. The study, which looked at over 1,400 malpractice claims between 2007 and 2015, also recommends actions that both doctors and patients can take to minimize the risk of injury and post-surgical complications.

The top two causes of injury were listed broadly as technical performance and patient factors (each accounting for just over 40 percent of claims). Ten percent of claims involved communication issues between doctors and patients or their family members.

One of the study's authors says they hope that the data they collected and analyzed will help "prompt physicians to collaborate with colleagues and hospital leaders to identify system weaknesses, thereby reducing the risk of harm to patients."

However, the findings also shed light on how patients can play an important role in minimizing risk of injury. It's essential to ensure that you understand everything your doctor tells you, both prior to the surgery and in post-surgery instructions. If you don't, continue to ask questions and seek clarification until you do.

Meanwhile, as one board member of The Doctor's Company who is a retired plastic surgeon points out, physicians need to work on continually enhancing their technical skills. Hospitals need to ensure that plastic surgery residents are properly trained. They, of course, need to take responsibility for getting accurate medical histories from patients and ensuring that patients and their caregivers understand all of the discharge instructions.

Unlike many types of doctors, plastic surgeons often advertise in local magazines, particularly in affluent areas. It's easy to be impressed by a glossy ad with a perfectly-toned model displaying what is ostensibly the plastic surgeon's work. However, it's essential to do your homework, as you would before choosing any physician.

Ask how many times he or she has performed the surgery you'll be undergoing and what the results have been. Find out if the plastic surgeon has a history of disciplinary actions or lawsuits. Thorough research can help you do your part to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of medical malpractice.

Source: Insurancenewsnet.com, "Study Looks at Factors That Lead to Patient Injury in Plastic Surgery," Sep. 23, 2016

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