Salivary gland surgery and medical malpractice

Steven S. Hong*, Christopher G. Yheulon, Joseph C. Sniezek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Objective. To better understand the causes and outcomes of lawsuits involving salivary gland surgery by analyzing malpractice litigation trends to prevent future litigation and improve physician education. Study Design. Analysis of a national database. Setting. All US civil trials. Subjects and Methods. The WESTLAW database was reviewed from January 1987 to March 2011. Data were compiled on the demographics of the defendant, anatomic site of injury, initial pathology, nature of injury, legal allegations, verdicts, and indemnities. Results. Twenty-six cases met inclusion criteria and were selected for review. Verdicts/settlements for the plaintiffs predominated (58%), and the average sum of the plaintiff's monetary award was $933,235. Sixteen cases (62%) involved injury to the parotid gland/duct, with 10 cases involving injury to the facial nerve. No cases were filed on the grounds of failure to use facial nerve monitoring. Nine cases (35%) involved injury to the submandibular gland/ duct. The most common legal allegations listed were improper performance followed by unnecessary procedures. If failure or inadequate consent was a component of the legal allegations, the verdict outcome significantly favored the defendants. Conclusion. Our study reveals that the plaintiffs in litigations involving salivary gland surgery have a slight advantage in outcomes with a fairly substantial award. Our litigation review reiterates the importance of detailed anatomic knowledge of the lingual and facial nerve to avoid the pitfalls of surgical error and consequent litigation. In addition, thorough preoperative evaluation of salivary gland pathology, including radiographic studies and needle biopsy, may help avoid errors in diagnosis and subsequent litigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-594
Number of pages6
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Facial nerve
  • Facial nerve monitor
  • Informed consent
  • Lawsuit
  • Legal
  • Lingual nerve
  • Malpractice
  • Parotid gland
  • Salivary gland
  • Submandibular gland


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