BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:
In 1999, the Swiss Society of Anaesthesiology and Reanimation (SSAR) initiated an analysis of closed malpractice claims filed against anaesthetists in a project intended to improve patient safety. This article discusses the results of a review of closed claims between 1987 and 2008 and filed up to the end of 2009.
Records of closed claims were provided by Swiss professional medical liability insurance companies and the Office for Extrajudicial Expert Review of the Swiss Medical Association. Data were collected by an onsite reviewer, converted into a standardised format and sent to the SSAR Closed Claims Study Group.Assessment criteria employed by the committee were level of care (standard or substandard); severity of injury; appropriateness of patient information; and consent.
The records of 171 events leading to anaesthesia-related injuries were entered into the database. These injuries occurred within the period 1987-2008. The majority of claims (54%) were related to regional anaesthesia, with general anaesthesia accounting for 28% and other anaesthesia-related procedures for 18%. The quality of care was judged by the committee to be substandard in 55% of cases, and liability was accepted in 46% of all claims. Negative outcomes were death in 12% and permanent injury in 63% of the patients.
The closed claims analysis project enabled the SSAR to identify areas of high medicolegal risks to gain an insight into the causes of infrequent but potentially harmful events leading to anaesthesia-related injuries and, based on these data, to develop preventive strategies.