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Urology. 2001 Apr;57(4):783-6; discussion 786-7.

Medicolegal aspects of testicular torsion.

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  • 1Department of Urology, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, New York, USA.



Testicular torsion is an active area of medical malpractice litigation because of the diagnostic uncertainty, delays in diagnosis and treatment, diagnostic errors, and resultant testicular loss. We reviewed this topic to determine the nature of patient claims and their clinical and legal outcomes.


All closed case files of a large medical malpractice insurance company based in New Jersey involving testicular torsion from the years 1979 to 1997 were retrospectively reviewed. The following data were collected: patient demographics, timing of presentation, initial complaints, diagnosis given, consultations obtained, radiographic studies, treatment provided, outcomes, and indemnity payments.


Thirty-nine cases consisting of 58 individual claims were reviewed. Indemnity payments were made in 26 cases (67%), of which 25 (96%) were settlements, and 13 cases (33%) ended in favor of the physicians. Five cases went to trial, with only one verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The median indemnity payment was $45,000. Urologists were named most frequently (48%), and a misdiagnosis of epididymitis (61%) was most commonly cited. The mean patient age was 24.3 years. Atypical initial complaints were common (46%). Late presentation (greater than 8 hours) did not affect the medicolegal outcome. The major liabilities for paid claims were an error in diagnosis (74%), a delay in or lack of referral (48%), lack of radiologic examination (19%), failure to explore (13%), error in surgical technique or judgment (13%), and falsified records (10%).


Testicular torsion litigation most often focuses on the urologist. Claims are more common in older patients and those with atypical complaints. Settlement is the most common outcome, with a fairly standard indemnity payment rewarded. The initial treating physician must have a high index of suspicion for the diagnosis and refer promptly. In lieu of a definitive radiologic study, or when the diagnosis is in question, the urologist should strongly consider exploration and should perform contralateral exploration when torsion is found.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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