Litigation in arthroscopic surgery: a 20-year analysis of legal actions in France

  • Pioger Charles
  • Jacquet Christophe
  • Abitan Alexandre
  • Odri Guillaume-Anthony
  • Ollivier Matthieu
  • Sonnery-Cottet Bertrand
  • Boisrenoult Philippe
  • Pujol Nicolas

  • Surgery
  • France
  • Indemnity
  • Arthroscopy
  • Litigation


Purpose The main objective of this study was to identify the epidemiological characteristics of litigation following arthro-scopic procedures, performed in private practice and public hospitals in France. The secondary objective was to establish a risk profile for medical malpractice lawsuits after arthroscopic surgery. Methods All court decisions related to arthroscopic surgery between 1994 and 2020 were collected and reviewed cases from the two main French legal databases (Legifrance and Doctrine). Data were retrospectively collected and included: gender, joint and defendant's specialty involved, reason behind the lawsuit, initial indication and the type of arthroscopic procedure performed. The final verdicts as well as the indemnity awarded to the plaintiff (if any) were recorded. Results One-hundred eighty cases met the inclusion criteria of the study and were analyzed: 58 cases were before administrative courts and 122 were before civil courts. An orthopaedic surgeon was involved alone or in solidum in 45.6% of cases (82/180), followed by anesthesiologists in 5.6% (10/180). The private surgery center or public hospital were implicated in 63.9% (115/180) of cases. The 2 most common joints involved in litigation following arthroscopic surgery were the knee (82.2%, n = 148) and the shoulder (11.1%, n = 20). The main reasons behind the lawsuit were related to postoperative infection in 78/180 cases and to a musculoskeletal complication in 45/180 cases (25%). A failure to inform was also reported in 34/180 cases (18.9%). Of the 180 cases, 122 cases (67.8%) resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff. The average indemnity award for the plaintiff was 77.984 euros [2.282-1.117.667]. A verdict for the plaintiff was significantly associated with postoperative infection or a wrong-side surgery, while technical error and musculoskeletal complications were more significantly likely to result in a verdict in favor of the defendant (p = 0.003). Conclusion This study evaluated and mapped lawsuits following after arthroscopic surgery in France over a period of more than 20 years. The main joint involved in lawsuits was knee. The main causes of lawsuits following arthroscopic surgery were related to postoperative infection, musculoskeletal complications and failure to inform. Level of Evidence Level IV.