Medical Malpractice in Bariatric Surgery: a Review of 140 Medicolegal Claims

Asad J. Choudhry, Nadeem N. Haddad, Matthew Martin, Cornelius A. Thiels, Elizabeth B. Habermann, Martin D. Zielinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Given the current rate of obesity in the USA, it has been estimated that close to half of the US adult population could be obese by 2030, resulting in greater demand for bariatric procedures. Our objective was to analyze malpractice litigation related to bariatric surgery. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of Westlaw (Thompson Reuters) of all bariatric operations that resulted in the filing of a malpractice claim. Each case was reviewed for pertinent medicolegal information related to the procedure, claim, and trial. Results: The search criteria yielded 298 case briefs, of which 140 met inclusion criteria. Thirty-two percent (n = 49) of cases involved male plaintiffs (patients). Mean patient age with standard deviation (SD) was 43 (10) years. The most common procedure litigated was the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (76 %, n = 107). Overall, the most common alleged reason for a malpractice claim was delay in diagnosis or management of a complication in the postoperative period (n = 66, 47 %), the most common of which was an anastomotic leak (45 %, n = 34). Death was reported in 74 (52 %) cases. Fifty-seven cases (47 %) were decided in favor of the plaintiff (patient), with a median award payout of $1,090,000 (interquartile range [IQR] $412,500 to $2,550,000). Conclusion: Delay in diagnosing or managing complications in the postoperative setting, most commonly an anastomotic leak, accounted for the majority of malpractice claims. Measures taken to identify and address anastomotic leaks and other complications early in the postoperative period could potentially reduce the amount of filed malpractice claims related to bariatric surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-154
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Gastrointestinal Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Bariatric surgery
  • Litigation
  • Medical malpractice
  • Westlaw

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Gastroenterology


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