(HealthDay News) — The risk of medical professional liability claims alleging failure to screen for esophageal cancer is not a reason to screen for esophageal cancer, according to a research letter published in the October 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Megan A. Adams, MD, JD, from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined the incidence of medical professional liability claims alleging failure to screen for esophageal cancer and the incidence of claims alleging complications from esophagogastroduodenoscopy performed with inadequate indication. Data were obtained from 278,220 claims filed against physicians in 1985 to 2012 and 103,381 claims in 2002 to 2012.
The researchers found that there were 761 claims related to esophagogastroduodenoscopy in 1985 to 2012. Improper performance, errors in diagnosis, and no medical error (i.e., claims that did not involve a purely medical error, such as abandonment, breach of confidentiality, or consent issues) were identified as the leading types of alleged error. Inadequate indication for esophagogastroduodenoscopy was alleged in 17 claims (2.2 percent). Esophageal malignancies were involved in 268 claims in 1985–2012 and in 122 claims in 2002–2012. Of the claims in 2002 to 2012, 50.8% alleged delay in diagnosis. Nonalarm presenting symptoms were reported in 19 claims.
“There may be legitimate reasons to screen for esophageal cancer in some patients, but our findings suggest that the risk of a medical professional liability claim for failing to screen is not one of them,” the authors write.