LASIK Eye Surgery Malpractice
LASIK surgery aims to improve the vision of a patient through the use of an excimer laser on a part of the eye known as the cornea. LASIK, which stands for Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is a type of refractive surgery that alters the shape of the cornea to produce its results. Doctors use LASIK to treat myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism, in the hopes of eliminating a patient's need for corrective lenses.
The LASIK procedure begins with the anesthetizing of the eye with eye drops. The surgeon then places an instrument called a microkeratome between the open eyelids of the anesthetized eye, and centers the microkeratome on the cornea. The surgeon uses the microkeratome to cut a flap in the stroma, the part of the cornea on which surgeons perform the LASIK procedure. First, a suction ring raises the pressure in the eye making the cornea rigid. This allows a small surgical blade housed in the microkeratome to make an even and smooth cut in the cornea, creating a flap that exposes the stroma. Though surgeons control some microkeratomes manually, most used today are automatic.
Once the surgeon cuts the flap, he or she releases the suction, removes the microkeratome, and folds the cut flap back to expose the underlying stroma. The surgeon then positions the patient under the excimer laser, which delivers laser pulses to the exposed stroma. Prior to the LASIK procedure, a doctor uses corneal topography to map the shape of the patient's eye. The topography's data is then entered into a computer that controls the excimer laser during the LASIK procedure. The laser is preprogrammed with the patient's data and computer controlled to remove the precise amount of tissue necessary to create the desired change in the cornea's shape.
Viewing the procedure through an operating microscope, the surgeon must make certain that the laser remains centered in the "surgical zone." After the laser application, the surgeon replaces the flap in its original position and cleans the eye to remove debris. The cornea begins healing almost immediately, without need for stitches to repair the cut flap.
While a patient may experience at least partial vision improvement almost immediately, it can take up to six months to gauge the complete effects of the surgery. Unforunately there are many complications, some of which may be the result of medical malpractice. Some dangers of the procedure include: inadequate techniques of the slice of the corneal flap , inability to smooth the flap post-surgery, blade and suction mishaps, microkeratome slippage, suction ring misalignment, debris and infection. Healing complications may also result in: displacement, subsequent trauma, wrinkles, pain and epithelial growth at the site of the slice. All of these may cause blurring and astigmatism. While there have been a handful of verdicts in LASIK cases, there are less than 100 cases filed nationwide.
A malpractice claim for a LASIK procedure must overcome the informed consent document that most doctors require their patients to sign prior to undergoing the procedure. An informed consent document may describe some of the complications and risks of the procedure and indicate that by signing the document the patient relieves from liability the surgeon, any attending nurses or staff, and the clinic in which the surgeon performed the procedure in case of a complication that results in injury. While an informed consent document does not necessarily bar a patient from raising a claim against a negligent surgeon, the patient should provide his or her lawyer with all the information available about the informed consent document, including a copy of the document, if available, as well as the circumstances under which the patient signed the document (i.e. was the patient given time to thoroughly read the document, did the doctor or other staff member go through the document with the patient and answer questions the patient might have had, etc?). Such information may prove crucial to a lawyer's ability to develop a case in the face of an informed consent document.
Because LASIK surgery is a recent medical development, no long-term outcome statistics exist for the procedure. Complications resulting from LASIK occur in approximately 1.5 to 5 percent of all patients. While doctor error may not account for all LASIK surgery complications it is important to evaluate the specific circumstances to determine if malpractice contributed to an injury.
If you have undergone LASIK surgery and believe that you suffer from complications as a result of the procedure, contact a qualified attorney to help you determine your legal options.
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