Medical Negligence

Ophthalmic Claims

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Our eyes are such precious items, it’s only natural that we should have anxieties if we have to entrust them into the care of a medical professional.

While he or she might have all the necessary qualifications, at the end of the day this is a person we don’t really know and in all likelihood are only meeting for the first or second time. It’s a big ask. The knowledge that your trust has been betrayed through medical negligence is a horrible thing to have to contemplate.

The feelings this stirs up are almost indescribable and that’s something we tried to convey in one of our films about a misdiagnosed eye condition.

Here’s a list of the main areas of medical negligence that we’ve come across the most in our dealings with ophthalmic claims. If you’re at all squeamish, you might find some of these descriptions a little bit off-putting:


Lasik/ lasek eye surgery

Did you know that there’s a difference between lasik and lasek? The first is corrective surgery in which a flap of the surface of your cornea is raised and a thin layer of underlying tissue is then removed using a laser. The flap is then replaced. Lasek on the other hand involves the surgeon loosening the top layer of the cornea and moving it aside so he can laser the tissue. The cornea layer is then carefully moved back into place so it can heal. Although both procedures are tried and tested methods of improving people’s eyesight and carry few risks, lasik is generally considered to be the more difficult of the two, as more complications are likely to occur with the creation of a new flap in the cornea. In some very rare instances, and with people with very thin corneas, the cut has gone right into the eye itself. And sometimes the surgery can lead to a condition called corneal ectasia – where the changes to the cornea have caused it to thin and change into a more conical shape than it should be, leading to distorted vision.


Cataract Surgery

Cataracts are very easily treated and cataract surgery is one of the most successful ophthalmic surgeries there is. As we get older, we are more prone to cloudliness in our eyes – these are the cataracts. During the procedure, your surgeon will remove them and replace them with an intraocular lens (IOL). Of course sometimes it can go wrong. Most of these are very minor and can be successfully treated medically or with additional surgery. But there are some things you should watch out for if you suspect you’ve been a victim of medical negligence:

  • Delayed diagnosis – this can lead to a worsening of your condition which is largely inexcusable given the simplicity of the treatment to cure it.
  • Malpositioned or dislocated intraocular lenses – if you can see the edge of your lens implant, or you develop double vision, then the lens hasn’t been positioned correctly. This needs to be fixed quickly as it could substantially damage your eyesight.

Keratoplasty surgery

Automated lamellar keratoplasty eye surgery – or ALK for short – is basically a corneal transplant. It’s used to correct the vision of people with severe nearsightedness and mild degrees of farsightedness. This is one of the oldest surgical procedures and is very common, to the extent that it is often performed under local anaesthesia and takes less than an hour to perform. An incision is made into the cornea to make way for the new cornea which is then sewn into place. In terms of the relatively rare instances of medical negligence following this surgery, infection and corneal scarring are some possible side effects, as are also some instances of glare or an inability to wear contact lenses afterwards.


Eye muscle surgery

This surgery is usually to correct misaligned or crossed eyes (or to use the correct medical term, strabismus). The ophthalmic surgeon will make a small surgical cut in the clear tissue covering the white of the eye, or conjunctiva as it is known. Then he’ll locate the muscles that require surgery. If the muscle needs strengthening, a section of the muscle or tendon will be removed to make it shorter – this procedure is called a resection. And if the muscle needs to be weakened, it’s reattached at a point at the back of the eye – this is called a recession. So what could go wrong with these procedures? A number of things: the patient could react badly to anaesthesia; he or she may encounter breathing problems; and bleeding or infection may result from the operation. Damage to the eye or permanent double vision are very rare side effects of what are actually quite routine operations.


Age related macular degeneration

As the population gets older, age related diseases are on the increase. AMD is a very common malady affecting people in their later years and is basically a general and gradual loss of eyesight which varies from patient to patient. AMD can often be misdiagnosed as such ailments as cataracts, undiagnosed diabetes, glaucoma or retinal detachment. So, it’s very important to get the correct diagnosis otherwise the patient could end up being treated for the wrong condition.


Glaucoma

This is a general name for a group of common diseases that affect the eyes and can result in blindness if not diagnosed or treated quickly. Glaucoma accounts for one in 10 cases of visual impairment in the UK. As it’s a gradual condition, it can be sometimes hard to notice that the eyesight is actually deteriorating. This is why it’s very important to have regular eye checks. There are two main types of glaucoma: acute-closed-angle glaucoma which develops suddenly and chronic open-angle glaucoma which develops slowly over a period of years. The latter is the most common form and usually occurs due to intraocular pressure which is a build-up of pressure within the eye. The trouble with glaucoma is that there often very few symptoms in its early stages so a correct diagnosis can be missed or come too late. Plus, the symptoms can often be misinterpreted for other similar eye diseases. But early diagnosis is absolutely crucial here otherwise the result can easily be complete loss of vision.


Retinal Detachment

This is a very serious condition that can lead to blindness if it’s not diagnosed and treated quickly.The early symptoms can be mild and easily overlooked so misdiagnosis is a potential area for medical negligence here. One of the symptoms – flashing lights – is also commonly associated with migraine headaches, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma but it can also be confused with age-related macular degeneration, opening the door for misdiagnosis even further. In fact, it’s one of the most frequent causes of medical negligence claims against ophthalmologists. These are the most common physical ailments that affect people and, if they’re not diagnosed early enough, can cause real hardship for the patients involved. However, occasionally there are other elements in play that are also grounds for medical negligence claims. We heard of an instance where a new lens was fitted to a patient’s eye which hadn’t been rinsed properly. It had microscopic metal fragments on it which ended up scarring the patient’s eyeball. Similarly, there are also incidents where the ophthalmic instruments are not used correctly, the surgeon has not demonstrated his proper duty of care by warning the patient of the possible side effects of the procedure, aftercare is of a noticeably poor standard or there have been errors in the administering of anaesthesia.

This is why you need someone well versed in the territory of ophthalmic claims on your side, someone who understands completely what you’re going through because they’ve dealt with a similar situation before and someone who will not only defend your legal rights in your compensation claim, but will happily hold your hand throughout the entire process. We can’t undo what’s been done to you but we can do our damnedest to make your situation a little easier to live with.


If you’ve decided you’re ready to move forward with your ophthalmic claim, then please contact us. We’ll do our best to make the whole process as painless as possible. Call us now on 03300 080 321 or fill out the online form – your first consultation will be free.

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Georgia Briscoe

Georgia Briscoe

Head of Medical Negligence

Georgia is Head of the Medical Negligence department at Fletchers. She has an impressive wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to dealing with Medical Negligence cases and prides herself on developing her team to ensure everyone shares her passion, tenacity and drive to get the best results for our clients.

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