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.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers 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.