Lawsuits Increasing Over Nonphysician Operator-Performed Laser Surgery


Lawsuits related to skin laser surgery performed by nonphysicians are increasing particularly for procedures outside a traditional medical setting, and physicians and other laser operators should know their state laws regarding physician supervision of nonphysician operators (NPOs), according to a study by H. Ray Jalian, M.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues. 

Researchers identified the frequency of medical professional liability claims stemming from skin laser surgery performed by NPOs by using an online national database of public legal documents.

In 175 cases related to injury from skin laser surgery from 1999 to 2012, researchers found 75 (42.9 percent) cases involving an NPO. The percentage of cases involving NPOs increased from 36.3 percent in 2008 to 77.8 percent in 2011. Laser hair removal was the most commonly performed procedure. While one-third of laser hair removal procedures were performed by NPOs, 75.5 percent of hair removal lawsuits from 2004 to 2012 involved NPOs, and 85.7 percent involved NPOs between 2008 and 2012.

“A dramatic increase in litigation has been filed against NPOs performing cutaneous [involving skin] laser procedures in medical and non-medical office settings. This has important implications for the safety of patients undergoing these procedures,” the authors conclude. “Given the increase in NPO laser surgery procedures and a parallel trend in greater frequency of lawsuits, further studies are needed to examine this troubling trend in laser safety.”

(JAMA Dermatol. Published online October 16, 2013. doi:10.1001/.jamadermatol.2013.7117.