Laser Surgery Claims Against Non-Doctors is Growing, Study Shows By Tod Aronovitz | 10/21/13 | 0 Comment

The number of lawsuits filed by patients who have sustained injuries, burns, or scars as a result of non-physicians performing laser procedures are escalating, according to a study published in the October issue of JAMA Dermatology.

The study identified 175 legal cases from 1999 through 2012 that involved laser surgery treatments such as hair or scar removal, and found that in 75 of these cases (42.9%), a non-physician such as a nurse, medical assistant, technician or intern performed the procedure.  Researchers also found the percentage of lawsuits listing a non-physician operator swelled over a four-year time period of 2008 through 2011, more than doubling from 36.3% to 77.8%.

In a Reuters Health story published October 16, Dr. Murad Alam, a dermatologist from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said the study shows the need for better supervision, training and consistency in policies from state-to-state.

Dr. H. Ray Jalian, lead researcher of the study at the University of California, Los Angeles, revealed that in some states, lasers can be operated without certification or training, which “puts the onus on the patients to kind of vet the person that’s doing their procedure,” Dr. Jalian said to Reuters Health.

Most of the laser surgeries not performed by physicians were done outside of doctors’ offices such as at “medical” spas, the study found.

The study also determined laser hair removal, followed by rejuvenation and laser treatments for scars and leg veins, resulted in the most lawsuits naming non-doctors.

“Even fairly common, well-established procedures like laser hair removal are not inherently safe,” Dr. Alam told Reuters Health. “They are lasers; they have a variety of risks including eye injuries (and) burns.”

“The evidence suggests there may be something more risky (about) getting a procedure done by a non-physician, particularly in a non-medical setting,” Dr. Jalian said in the article.

In a statement, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association recommends that when laser procedures are done by a non-doctor health professional, “The supervising physician shall be physically present on-site, immediately available, and able to respond promptly to any question or problem that may occur while the procedure is being performed.”

“It behooves people to do a little bit of investigation and not solely make their decisions based on convenience” or cost, Dr. Alam summed up.

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