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Ophthalmology. 2003 Nov;110(11):2137-46.

Medical malpractice predictors and risk factors for ophthalmologists performing LASIK and photorefractive keratectomy surgery.

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Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.



To identify physician predictors in LASIK and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) surgery that correlate with a higher risk for malpractice liability claims and lawsuits.


Retrospective, longitudinal, cohort study.


A comparison of physician demographic and practice pattern data of 100 consecutive Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC) LASIK and PRK claims and lawsuits with demographic and practice pattern data for all active refractive surgeons insured by OMIC between 1996 to 2002 was made. Background information and data were obtained from OMIC underwriting applications, a physician practice pattern survey, and claims file records. Using an outcome of whether or not a physician had a history of a claim or lawsuit, logistic regression analyses were used separately for each predictor as well as controlling for refractive surgery volume.


Malpractice claim or lawsuit for performance of PRK or LASIK surgery.


Logistic regression analysis demonstrated that the most important predictor of filing a claim was surgical volume, with those performing more surgery having a greater risk of incurring a claim (odds ratio [OR] = 31.4 for >1000 surgeries/year versus 0-20 surgeries/year, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 7.9-125, P = 0.0001). Having one or more prior claim was the only other predictor examined that remained statistically significant after controlling for patient volume (OR = 6.4, 95% CI = 2.5-16.4, P = 0.0001). Physician gender, advertising use, preoperative time spent with patient, and comanagement seemed to be strong predictors in multivariate analyses when surgical volume was greater than 100 cases per year.


The chances for incurring a malpractice claim or lawsuit for PRK or LASIK correlate significantly with higher surgical volume and a history of a claim or lawsuit. Additional risk factors that increase in importance with higher surgical volume include physician gender, advertising use, preoperative time spent with the patient, and comanagement with optometrists. These findings may be used in the future to help improve the quality of care for patients undergoing refractive surgery and to provide data for underwriting criteria and risk management protocols to manage proactively and perhaps reduce the risk for claims and lawsuits against refractive surgeons.

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