Like all medical procedures, laser eye surgery involves a number of risks. In most cases these are minimal, but they can range greatly in severity: from failing to gain the hoped-for sight improvement to discomfort, pain, infection, development of an eye condition, or even loss of sight.
Experiencing any of these negative effects from laser eye surgery can be distressing, and you may want to seek recompense for the damage that’s been done.
However, the situation can be complicated – because even if you have suffered negative effects from laser eye surgery, it does not necessarily mean that mistakes were made. This can make it difficult to know whether you have any legal grounds to claim compensation.
For a laser eye surgery clinical negligence claim, there has to be an element of your care being below the required standards – which was then the cause of the harm you suffered.
To help you get a sense of what this can look like in reality, we’ve set out 3 general examples of medical mistakes in laser eye surgery (with some more specific examples alongside them).
1 – Not giving you full information on the risks
This is probably the most common mistake we see in laser surgery cases.
It can stem from insufficient pre-operative checks (such as examining your medical history for any conditions which might increase the risk factors you face) which miss important information. Alternatively, the checks might find the information but the significance and the risks are not discussed with you.
Care providers are legally and ethically required to obtain ‘informed consent’ from a patient before carrying out any medical procedure. Part of this is providing the patient with a full understanding of any possible significant risks, so that they can consider that information and decide whether to consent or not.
If a laser surgery clinic has missed out key risk factors or obscured potential risks (for example, through high-pressure sales tactics), any consent you gave to the surgery could be considered invalid. This would give strong grounds for a claim of clinical negligence.
In pre-operative checks, the laser surgery clinic notices that a patient has a persistent history of dry eyes. However, when obtaining consent for LASIK surgery, the surgeon does not mention this as an increased risk factor. The patient has the surgery and suffers severe pain and discomfort for several months afterwards from because their dry eyes have been exacerbated by the surgery.
2 – Errors during surgery
An error by the surgeon in the laser eye surgery itself is perhaps the kind of medical mistake that first springs to mind. Doctors have a duty to use care and skill when carrying out medical procedures, so making a mistake when doing so and causing the patient harm can be a clear example of clinical negligence.
But it may surprise you to learn that laser eye surgery is not specifically regulated. The people carrying out these procedures only need to be registered doctors; they are not required to have any specialised qualifications, experience, or background in laser surgery or ophthalmology.
This means that there can be a huge variation in competence between different surgeons.
There are several different methods of laser eye surgery – with the main ones being LASIK, SMILE, and surface laser treatments (such as PRK and LASEK). Each involves different techniques of reshaping the cornea and using lasers to make delicate cuts.
It’s possible that a bad cut, or the removal of too much corneal tissue, can lead to significant problems or loss of sight.
A surgeon inputs incorrect eye topography measurements into the excimer laser, causing it to remove too much tissue during the surgery. The patient develops problems with their vision due to corneal ectasia – a condition resulting from the remaining corneal tissue being too weak to hold the pressure of the eye, causing the cornea to bulge outwards.
3 – Poor quality care after the surgery
Many of the milder consequences which may result from laser eye surgery can be resolved with appropriate after-care. As such, mistakes with how you are looked after following your surgery can cause some negative effects to worsen, or for new complications to develop.
For example, eye infections can occur after laser eye surgery in some situations, and if not treated properly can even put your sight at risk.
And developing some post-operative complications can be linked back to failures before the operation to adequately assess risk factors.
A surgeon fails to spot signs of a developing eye infection following the laser surgery. Due to the delay in treatment, the infection causes the patient to suffer more severe symptoms than if it had been treated immediately.
Has any of this happened to you?
If you believe you have fallen victim to a medical mistake made during laser eye surgery, it is important to discuss your situation with a clinical negligence lawyer. You may be able to make a claim, which can provide you with financial compensation and potentially quicker access to further treatment.
At Truth Legal, we have specialist clinical negligence solicitors who can help you to understand your rights in making a claim. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us for friendly, expert advice.