Non-physician laser procedures draw more lawsuits

November 12, 2013

Lawsuits related to laser procedures performed by non-physicians are on the rise - particularly those performed outside a traditional medical setting.

 

Lawsuits related to laser procedures performed by non-physicians are on the rise - particularly those performed outside a traditional medical setting.

According to a study published online in JAMA Dermatology, the non-physicians included nurse practitioners, registered nurses, medical assistants, electrologists and aestheticians.

A research team led by H. Ray Jalian, M.D., clinical instructor of medicine in the dermatology division at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, used an online national database to chart the frequency of liability claims stemming from skin-related laser surgeries. They identified 175 cases related to injury from such surgeries between 1999 and 2012. Of those cases, 75 (42.9 percent) involved a non-physician. The proportion of cases involving non-physicians increased from 36.3 percent in 2008 to 77.8 percent in 2011.

The study notes that because skin-related laser procedures are increasingly popular, more non-physicians are performing them in order to meet the demand. The study found that laser hair removal was the most common of these procedures. While only a third of these was performed by non-physicians, 75.5 percent of hair-removal lawsuits between 2004 and 2012 involved non-physicians - between 2008 and 2012, that figure had risen to 85.7 percent.

“Procedures performed by untrained individuals, particularly in non-medical settings, are more likely to result in litigation,” Dr. Jalian said in a UCLA news release. “Consumers should be aware that laser treatments are medical procedures and should verify the training, certification and experience of the person performing the procedure.”

Dr. Jalian said physicians and others who operate lasers should know their state laws regarding physician supervision of non-physician laser operators. He also noted that in the correct setting, with close on-site supervision and appropriate training, the use of non-physician operators can be safe and effective.