Waking up from surgery with some degree of blindness is cause for alarm for patients and their family members. There are also surgical procedures a patient may undergo that are unrelated to the eyes but can still cause permanent vision loss.
Different factors can cause blindness after surgery. If you or a loved one has suffered post-operative vision loss due to negligence, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Our experienced personal injury lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can investigate the medical negligence involved in your case. Contact our office, and we will provide a free personal injury case review.
Our Chicago law firm has decades of experience handling complex medical malpractice cases.
How Post-Operative Vision Loss Occurs
A patient may lose vision from a complication during eye surgery. There are many cases where a surgery unrelated to the eyes can also affect the optic nerve.
Some of the most common surgical procedures with a high risk of postoperative vision loss are cardiac surgery and spinal surgeries.
Different factors during surgery can cause the amount of oxygen in the patient’s blood to decrease. This decrease in oxygen leads to damage to the optic nerve causing blindness.
Some of the most common causes of permanent loss of vision after surgery are ischemic optic neuropathy, central retinal artery occlusion, and cerebral vision loss.
Ischemic Optic Neuropathy
Ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) is the most common cause of postoperative vision loss. This complication occurs when the optic nerve heads are deprived of oxygen.
Disruption of the blood supplying oxygen to the optic nerve heads can result in partial or complete vision loss. There are two types of this complication that can occur depending on where the damage is located.
If there is damage to the optic nerve head, the patient has anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AION). A patient has posterior ischemic optic neuropathy (PION) if there is damage to the rest of the optic nerve not involving the optic nerve head.
Edema (swelling)  is present in the optic disc for anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. Posterior ischemic optic neuropathy is not associated with swelling. Some of the symptoms that a patient will experience are pain in the temples, scalp pain, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Central Retinal Artery Occlusion
This condition involves the blockage of blood to the retina of one eye and is similar to a stroke. The obstruction can be caused by:
- A blood clot
- Obstruction in an artery of the retina
- The build-up of cholesterol in an artery
The most common symptom a patient will experience is sudden blindness in one eye. The patient may have a complete loss of vision in the eye or partial blindness.
People who have high blood pressure and diabetes and are older than 60 are at a higher risk of developing this condition. If you experience sudden blindness, you should immediately visit an eye doctor or emergency room for testing and care.
Cerebral Vision Loss
Cerebral vision loss is a disorder caused by damage to parts of the brain that process vision. This condition is most common in children and babies.
The injuries to the brain that cause this condition can occur before, during, or after birth. A lack of oxygen or blood supply to the brain, infections that affect the brain, and a head injury are common causes of this condition.
Risk Factors for Post-Operative Vision Loss
Several risk factors can contribute to a patient experiencing postoperative vision loss. A person is likely to not know that blindness is a risk that can occur after a surgical procedure.
The positioning of the patient during surgery and the patient’s health condition can be contributing factors that increase the risk of blindness. Undergoing a surgical procedure can be more dangerous if an individual has a combination of these risk factors.
Some well-known risk factors include:
A Surgery That Lasts Over Six Hours
One common risk factor is the length of time surgery takes. If the surgery lasts a long time, there is a possibility the patient could have endured a prolonged period of oxygen deprivation.
A surgery that lasts over six hours has an increased risk of blood loss and not enough oxygen being transported to the brain.
Anemia or Other Blood Conditions
Anemia  is when a person lacks enough healthy red blood cells to transport enough oxygen to the body’s tissues. This condition should be treated in patients before surgery to ensure the blood is in a normal red blood cell count range.
Prone Positioning During Surgery
If a patient undergoes spinal surgery or other procedures requiring access to the posterior head and neck, they will be placed in the prone position.
This body position involves a person lying flat with their chest down and their backup. This position can result in increased orbital pressure and increased corneal abrasion risk.
A patient in the prone position for a surgery that lasts longer than six hours will have a downward pressure on their chest. This amount of force on their chest may reduce the blood supply that the heart receives.
If the individual continues to lose blood over time, the amount of oxygen that the blood carries to the brain also decreases.
Other Common Risk Factors
Other known risk factors that can contribute to post-operative vision loss include:
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes mellitus
- High cholesterol
- History of smoking
- Sleep apnea 
- Heart disease
- Use of certain fluids that replace blood
- Length of time under general anesthesia
- External pressure on the eye
- Use of surgical frame that places the head lower than the heart
- The male sex
This complication can also be the result of a preventable error. If a doctor or the medical staff fails to monitor a patient’s blood pressure and oxygen levels, the optic nerve might be damaged.
Such an injury due to negligence is considered medical malpractice. You should consult with a medical malpractice attorney to review your case.
Medical Negligence in Postoperative Vision Loss
There are different ways a doctor’s negligence could have caused a serious injury.
Surgeons and other medical professionals involved in a patient’s surgical procedure must monitor vital signs and respond quickly if there is a loss of too much blood or oxygen.
Taking careful precautions to avoid issues beforehand includes reviewing the patient’s medical history, responding to low blood pressure and anemia, and evaluating a patient properly.
During a surgical procedure, the medical staff must monitor the positioning of the patient, as well as any changes in vital signs. They must respond with a blood transfusion for blood loss or help the patient get more oxygen if necessary.
Doctors and other health professionals owe patients a standard of medical care when providing their services. Liability will be established in a medical malpractice case by looking at what other health care providers in the same area and specialty would have done under the same or similar circumstances.
If you suffered blindness after a procedure due to medical negligence, you should hire a personal injury attorney to investigate your case. You may be able to recover pain and suffering, medical bills, lost income, and more.
Informed Consent Claim
If a patient is given medical care and experiences a postoperative injury, they may be able to make an informed consent claim. An individual could file this claim if the hospital failed to warn about the risk of the complication before the procedure.
Patients are usually given a consent form to sign before undergoing surgery. The consent form covers the risks associated with the procedure and alternative treatments, but the document alone is not enough for a hospital to avoid liability.
Many patients are rarely warned about all possible risks associated with a surgical procedure. The hospital must also verbally inform patients of all potential risks, benefits, and alternative treatments.
If you were not adequately warned about post-operative vision loss, you might be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Our medical malpractice lawyers provide the best possible representation and serve clients in medical malpractice and injury cases.
Consult With One of Our Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today
Patients who have undergone surgery are already facing difficulties related to their health and rising medical costs. Waking up from surgery and finding that you have permanent vision loss can create undue stress on a person and their family.
You may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit and hold the responsible parties accountable. You should consult with an attorney who has experience in medical malpractice and injury cases.
Our Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC legal team has decades of experience handling complex medical malpractice cases. Our Chicago law firm is committed to providing the best possible representation for our personal injury clients.
Call our medical malpractice law office at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.