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Physical Therapy Case Study: TENS unit burn

Burns are one of the injuries most frequently associated with physical therapy malpractice claims. Burns contributed to 16.4% of all physical therapy malpractice claims in the Physical Therapy Professional Liability Exposure Claim Report: 4th Edition​. Many burn injuries in the report dataset are related to a failure to assess the patient’s skin integrity, neurological status, and/or ability to perceive pain or discomfort prior to using biophysical agents such as hot packs, electrotherapy, iontophoresis, or cold packs/ice. The video case study that follows provides an example of such a claim.

This video case study involves a physical therapist working in an outpatient physical therapy office setting, treating a male patient in his early 30s who was prescribed physical therapy after undergoing an arterial bypass procedure on his right leg. The physical therapist used a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS unit on the patient’s right leg at the end of each session.

In this video you will learn:
  • The patient’s relevant medical history.
  • How lack of training on how to use a TENS unit played a role in the patient’s outcome.
  • What the expert witnesses testified.
  • The final cost of the malpractice lawsuit.
  • Risk management recommendations for avoiding similar circumstances.

Additional Resources

Legal Case Study (PDF) with risk management recommendations

Physical Therapy Professional Liability Exposure Claim Report: 4th Edition

Physical Therapy Spotlight: Burns​
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