The ENT Business is Booming
Dr. Thomas Kidder wrote, in an article for Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery, February 2002, Volume 10, Issue1, pp 14-18, “Operations on the nose and sinuses result in the largest number of malpractice lawsuits and the highest indemnity payouts for otolaryngologic procedures. The advent of CT scanning and endoscopic technology has increased the number of such operations performed.” http://journals.lww.com/co-otolaryngology/Abstract/2002/02000/Malpractice_considerations_in_endoscopic_sinus.4.aspx
This warning was issued to otolaryngologists eight years ago. Obviously, a high percentage of that increasing number of patients found themselves worse off following their surgeries. Otolaryngologists could not possibly have remained unaware of this phenomenon. They were, after all, affected by it in terms of both hurting patients and increased lawsuits. If ENT’s were operating out of a concern for patients, therefore, we would expect to see a decreasing number of sinus surgeries performed over the years. This has not been the case.
“There were approximately 200,000 sinus surgeries performed in the United States in 1994” according to the American Academy of Allergic Asthma and Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/sinusitis/whatischronicsinusitis.stm
in an article titled, “Sinus Surgery Eases Rhinosinusitis Symptoms” published January 1, 2010, Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today, reports “Chronic rhinosinusitis affects up to 16% of Americans, with annual direct costs of $4.3 billion… That includes about 500,000 surgical procedures a year.” http://www.medpagetoday.com/Surgery/Otolaryngology/17751 Thus, over the past 15 years, the rate of sinus surgeries has increased two and a half fold, from 200,000 surgeries a year in 1994 to 500,000 surgeries a year in 2009.
I don’t personally believe that this increase has resulted in more happy campers—unless we are counting the ENT’s who are reaping the profits. They are the ones creating the reports that say patients are improved by these surgeries. I’ve spoken to a quite a few of these patients who are, in fact, devastated. There are over 700 registered members of the Empty Nose Syndrome Self-Help website: http://www.emptynosesyndrome.org/index.php. It is safe to assume that the vast majority of people injured by sinus surgeries never discover the term “Empty Nose Syndrome” and/or suffer injuries that do not meet the criteria. I have read my own post-operative reports and you would never gauge from them, the depth of my suffering and the destruction to my life. No where in my medical records is the term “Empty Nose Syndrome” found though it was diagnosed by several ENTs.
I have heard many stories similar to mine. A patient saw an ENT for a minor issue. The ENT rushed them into surgery, casually recommending a procedure that sounded as simple and routine as getting a flu shot.
This lawyer describes it precisely on his website: “Sinus surgery may be dubbed a ‘simple’ outpatient procedure, ‘even routine.’ Patients suffering from chronic allergies or sinus infections are opting to undergo outpatient sinus surgery in record numbers. Though sinus surgery is labeled in many advertisements and on Internet sites as ‘minimally invasive,’ this trendy procedure, if negligently performed, can cause serious personal injury.” http://www.damorelaw.com/practice-areas/sinus-surgery-injury.php
I didn’t even have to complain of sinus problems to be herded onto the operating table.
Returning to Dr. Kidder’s warning to otolaryngologists about the serious malpractice considerations involved in sinus surgeries: What have ENT’s done in response to the problem? They have used their political clout to get tort reform laws passed, making it almost impossible to sue them. They have added a statement to patient release forms noting that sinus surgery can make you worse. I thought it was just “lawyer language.” Problem solved. Next…