Cataract surgery is performed to remove a cataract; an eye disease which clouds the normally clear lens of an eye. What causes a cataract is not precisely known, it is speculated that they are caused by the change in protein structures within the lens of the eye which may occur of several years. The change of these protein structures may be due to excessive ultraviolet light exposure, exposure to ionizing radiation, smoking, steroids, diabetes, or use of certain medications.
There are three standard cataract surgical techniques performed in a hospital or in an ambulatory surgery center:
- Phacoemulsification: The most common form of cataract surgery which typically takes 30 minuets or less and minimum sedation. The surgeon will use an operating microscope to aid in making a very small incision on the surface of the eye in or near the cornea. The surgeon will then insert a thin ultrasound probe, known as a phacoemulsifier, into the eye which uses ultrasonic vibrations to dissolve the cloudy lens. The tiny fragments are then sucked out of the eye using the same device. After the cataract is removed, an artificial lens is placed in the same capsular bag in which the cataract previously occupied.
- Extracapsular Cataract Surgery: This technique is used for cases where the cataract has developed too dense or beyond the point to where it will dissolve into fragments. This procedure will require a larger incision to remove the cataract in one whole piece. An artificial lens will be used in the capsular bag after the cataract has been removed.
- Intracapsular Cataract Surgery: Is a technique rarely used today but may still be useful in the event of significant trauma to the eye. This technique uses a larger incision to remove the entire lens as well as surrounding capsule. An intraocular lens is then placed in front of the iris instead of the cornea.
Cataract surgery typically yields good results when performed properly with a patient who needs the operation. There are, however, patients who do not need the operation or who have risk factors that may cause serious complications. Cataract surgery performed when it is not needed, performed improperly, or performed with mismanaged surgical complications will often constitute malpractice. Several risk factors include loss of vision in the opposite eye, extreme near-sightedness, glaucoma, diabetes, as well as other eye problem risk factors.
Questions to ask include the following:
- Was the cataract significantly affecting the patient’s activities of daily living?
- Was cataract surgery truly necessary?
- Was a cataract really present?
- Were there safer alternatives to correct the vision?
- Were there risk factors or complications that would result in a poor surgical outcome?
To determine the cataract surgery constitutes medical malpractice, Sweeney Law Firm will work with the ophthalmologists and other physicians to determine if the cataract surgery was truly necessary, if a cataract was truly present, if there may have been safer alternatives to correct the vision, and if there were any surgical risk factors that may have caused a poor surgical outcome.