Medical mistakes and physician errors during cataract surgery often result in partial vision loss or permanent blindness for patients.
Cataract Surgery Poses Risk of Blindness
In the United States, more than three million cataract surgeries are performed each year. Although many are performed without incident, medical malpractice lawsuits are frequently filed against ophthalmologists for mistakes that occur during surgery.
One complication that involves the movement of lens fragments often leads to temporary vision loss or blindness. Increasing medical malpractice claims resulting from cataract surgery and related ophthalmic care raise concerns about the risks for patients who undergo this procedure. In 1989, the number of ophthalmologists insured by Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC) was 1,027. By 2009, that number had grown to 4,107. Between 1989 and 2009, OMIC had a total of more than 2,800 medical malpractice claims with 937 claims related to cataract surgery and 117 claims related to cataract surgery complications due to retained lens fragments. During this period, claims for injuries from cataract surgery accounted for one-third of total claims.
Cataract Surgical Errors Are Caused by Numerous Factors
A review panel that studied eye surgery errors concluded that many mistakes result from communication breakdowns, failure to perform pre-op procedures, ordering the wrong lenses, and marking the wrong eye for surgery. The panel recommended that stronger safety measures be implemented during the ordering, storing, and identification process to prevent errors and injury risks to patients.
While 98 percent of cataract surgeries are successful, approximately 15,000 people still lose their vision following surgery each year. It’s important to select a well-qualified surgeon through a trusted optometrist. Studies show that patients who undergo cataract surgery in a cataract surgery center owned and operated by the surgeon doing the procedure have fewer risks and complications from surgery. Patients who have other eye conditions or diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or eye injuries should see a physician who specializes in that condition before undergoing cataract surgery.