Medicolegal analysis of 100 malpractice claims against bariatric surgeons

Daniel Cottam, Jeffrey Lord, Ramsey M. Dallal, Bruce Wolfe, Kelvin Higa, Kathleen McCauley, Philip Schauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: Very few studies have addressed malpractice litigation specific to bariatric surgery. This study was designed to analyze litigation trends in bariatric surgery to prevent further lawsuits and improve patient care. Methods: A total of 100 consecutive bariatric lawsuits were reviewed by a consortium of experienced bariatric surgeons and an attorney specializing in medical malpractice. Results: Of the 100 lawsuits, 45% were reviewed for defense attorneys. The mean patient age was 40 years (range 18-65), 75% were women, 81% had a body mass index of <60, 31% were diabetic, and 38% had sleep apnea. Of the surgeons, 42% had <1 year of experience, and 26% had done <100 cases. Although 69% of the physicians were members of the American Society of Bariatric Surgery, only 22% had detailed consent forms. The surgical procedures were performed between 1997 and 2005 and included Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (78% total, 33% open, and 45% laparoscopic), vertical banded gastroplasty (3%), minigastric bypass (6%), biliopancreatic diversion/duodenal switch (4%), and revision (9%). Of the 100 cases, 32% involved an intraoperative complication and 72% required additional surgery. The most common adverse events initiating litigation were leaks (53%), intra-abdominal abscess (33%), bowel obstruction (18%), major airway events (10%), organ injury (10%), and pulmonary embolism (8%). From these injuries, 53 patients died, 28% had a full recovery, 12% had a minor disability, and 7% had major disabilities. Evidence of potential negligence was found in 28% of cases. Of these cases, 82% resulted from a delay in diagnosis and 64% from misinterpreted vital signs. Conclusions: This study found that leaks and delayed diagnosis were the most common cause of litigation. Even experienced bariatric surgeons should understand the most common errors made by others to prevent complications and avoid litigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-66
Number of pages7
JournalSurgery for Obesity and Related Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Bariatric surgery
  • Gastric bypass
  • Lawsuit
  • Malpractice
  • Morbid obesity
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Medicolegal analysis of 100 malpractice claims against bariatric surgeons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this