Patients undergoing surgery on their spines are often unaware of the risk of vision loss that is associated with long spinal procedures that require six or more hours of anesthesiology. Post-operative vision loss, also referred to as ischemic neuropathy, occurs when the optic nerve is damaged due to a prolonged period of diminished oxygen in the patient’s blood.
Because it is the responsibility of the acting anesthesiologist to monitor the patient’s blood pressure and oxygen levels during surgery— and because this condition is rarely discussed with patients prior to the surgery as one of the risks of the operation— patients who suffer from post-operative vision loss may be able to file a claim for medical malpractice.
The Primary Cause of Post-Operative Vision Loss
The relationship between the how the patient is positioned, the length of time the procedure takes and the methods taken to limit blood loss during the operation all contribute to ischemic neuropathy. Spinal surgeries may take in excess of six hours and because the patient is positioned on his or her stomach, the downward pressure on his or her chest may reduce the blood supply that returns to the heart. This combined with fluids that are added to the blood stream as the patient loses blood over time lowers the amount of oxygen that the blood carries to the brain.
For some reason not entirely known to science yet, the brain is able to increase cerebral blood flow in order to compensate for a diminished oxygen supply but the optic nerve does not receive any of this blood increased supply, leaving the nerve to die. Post-operative vision loss is completely preventable if the patient is monitored correctly and steps are made to ensure that oxygen levels in the blood do not drop to levels that can cause damage to the optic nerve or other vital systems.
Holding Medical Practitioners Accountable When a Patient Suffers Vision Loss After Surgery
Spinal operations that last more than six hours carry over 135 times the risk of post-operative vision loss than any other procedure. In the event that the patient loses more than a liter of blood during the procedure, the risk of vision loss skyrockets. These risks are rarely covered with patients before the operations, however, and diligent monitoring can prevent the vision loss entirely. Any patient that suffers from ischemic neuropathy after a spinal surgery may have the right to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice.
Vision Loss Malpractice Awards
$700,000 Settlement; Post-Operative Vision Loss Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
The patient that sued here was a thirty-five. She underwent a procedure known as photoreactive keratectomy. That uses a laser to trim part of the cornea. That procedure went smoothly. However, trouble developed later. The doctor that performed the operation prescribed her Lotemax. That medication is a steroid. It is also an anti-inflammatory. When prescribing it, doctors are supposed to monitor the patient closely because it can lead to problems such as glaucoma. The doctor did not do that here. The patient high blood pressure but he did not check that. He kept giving her the same prescription. Consequently, she ended up getting glaucoma, nerve damage, and vision loss. She sued the doctor for this oversight. She claimed it was negligent (i.e. unreasonable) for him to give her those medications without monitoring her better. Her complaint sought damages related to this pain, vision loss, medical bills, and related damages. The eye doctor and the facility where the events transpired ended up shouldering some of the blame together in this lawsuit. They combined to give her a settlement of $700,000.
$350,000 Settlement; Post-Operative Vision Loss Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
This vision-loss case was a bit complicated because the victim did make mitigating efforts to reduce the effect of the doctor’s negligence. That patient was forty-three at the time of these events. She had eye surgery on two separate occasions in 2013, April and October. The doctor did not notice that between the first and second operation a suture had cut loose and torn her cornea. That error directly led to vision loss, cornea scratching, and trichiasis. The woman was rendered nearly blind in the affected eye. As mentioned earlier, subsequent to these developments, she did try and fix the situation. She got lenses to increase her vision in the battered eye. But it never got back to normal. She sued the doctor to make up for this loss, the pain, and the expense. The doctor and that doctor’s medical group paid an out-of-court settlement of $350,000.
$900,000; Post-Operative Vision Loss Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
The plaintiff in this case had a very rare eye issue. The condition is known as uveitis. That means an inflammation in the middle of the eye including where the iris and choroid are. He was only fifty-two when he found out he had this condition. The doctor he saw recommended steroid injection treatments. However, he did them improperly. He injected the steroid into the vitreous. The doctor was not supposed to do that. The consequences were serious. The man sustained a torn and detached retina as well as reduced vision in the affected eye. He sued the doctor and the facility where he received the treatment. He alleged that the pair were negligent in the service they rendered him. Further, that negligence was the direct cause of his injuries and damages including pain, disability, lost income, and medical bills. The defendants did not go through the motions of a trial. Their errors were stark and apparent. Instead, the discussion soon moved to settlement. The man ended up receiving $900,000.
$5,000,000 Settlement; Post-Operative Vision Loss Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
The patient that injured in this dispute was just twelve. She had sinus and related issues, so doctors suggested surgery. They were supposed to open up the sinus cavity by operating on the maxillary bone. However, they apparently tore into the bone that separates the sinuses from the orbital bone (eyes). Then, the child and her parents claimed that the doctors also disrupted an optic nerve as well as tissues and muscles surrounding the eye. Consequently, she was partially blinded. She also felt lots of pain in and around the eye. She could not even focus or control the eye in question. There was also scarring in the general area. She sued the doctors for these developments. Her case sought compensation for the suffering, abuse, disability, and expense that resulted from their alleged negligence. The defendants disagreed on the facts, but they could not dismiss the overall picture: the child was seriously injured and disabled because of their medical care. In the end, that fact carried the day. The child received $5 million in compensation, paid by the defendants’ insurers.
Contact Our Team of Malpractice Lawyers if You Suffer Vision Loss During Surgery
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC are experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorneys who represent anyone who has suffered undue harm due to the negligence of others. If you or a loved one suffers from post-operative vision loss, contact us today. We will arrange a free consultation and are able to travel to you if you are unable to meet with us at our offices. We understand the tragic and life changing consequences that accompany post-operative vision loss and will help you every step of the way toward collecting the damages that you are entitled to in order to compensate for your financial burden, pain and suffering.