Despite bronchoscopy’s minimally invasive approach, it is not without errors and complications. When such errors do occur, patients may seek legal redress. The aim of the study was to describe the setting, contributing characteristics, and outcomes of litigation targeting bronchoscopic procedures. Westlaw (Thompson Reuters), an online legal research data set, was queried for all medical malpractice cases reported in the United States from 1983 to 2018 wherein bronchoscopy was performed. A total of 87 cases were included. Pulmonology was the most common specialty named in the cases (n=42, 48%). The most common alleged reason for litigation was procedural complication (n=25, 29%), followed by failure to diagnose (n=24, 28%) and failure to treat (n=16, 18%). A total of 49 cases (56%) were decided in favor of the defendant physician, and a settlement was reached before the trial verdict in 20 cases (23%). A verdict delivered in favor of the plaintiff occurred in 18 cases (21%). The median (interquartile range) plaintiff award and settlement payouts were $1,729,560 ($497,088 to $3,895,337) and $648,000 ($184,961 to $2,874,875), respectively. Failure to obtain complete informed consent was the only case characteristic that was significantly associated with an increased risk of payout (odds ratio: 6.67, 95% confidence interval: 1.1-84, P=0.04). Despite bronchoscopy’s utility in identifying numerous pulmonary pathologies, bronchoscopy-related complications were found to be the leading cause of litigation. Identifying and addressing errors with care and proper consent may reduce the number of malpractice claims related to bronchoscopy.
Level of Evidence: Level III.