Vision Loss from Spinal Surgery
Postoperative vision loss, POVL, is a rare complication of surgery that is not performed on the eye. Patients have experienced visual deficits or complete blindness in one or both eyes from cardiac, spine or vascular surgery. Any surgery puts a stress on your body but when vision loss results from surgery the condition is generally catastrophic and life-altering.
The condition occurs when an anesthesiologist fails to maintain the proper blood pressure during a surgery on the spine lasting six hours or more. Losing a great amount of blood during surgery also compromises the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the optic nerve. Blindness will generally be noticed within the first few days after surgery. Temporary blindness can occur but if the nerve to the eye is damaged, the eyesight loss could be permanent in one or both of the eyes.
The British Journal of Anesthesia says the estimated incidence of this complication after non-ocular surgery is roughly 0.01-1%. The Journal of Neurosurgery estimates the incidence of POVL from less than 1% to 0.2%.
A prone position is generally required for spinal surgery and that adds to the complication rate. Since spinal surgery is performed when the patient is lying on his stomach, there is an increase in abdominal pressure on the large vein that returns blood to the heart. If the patient is overweight or obese, additional pressure from the weight means there will be an even greater reduction in the amount of blood returning to the heart during surgery. What’s curious is that the brain does not suffer injury from prolonged low oxygenation because it has a mechanism by which it maintains adequate oxygenation by increasing cerebral blood flow.
Because these conditions are present in spinal surgeries, the risk of POVL is reported to be 22 to 23 times greater when compared to other surgeries. When there is a loss of a liter or more of blood and the surgery lasts longer than six hours, the risk of POVL is about 135 to 175 times greater than for a shorter spine surgery with less blood loss.
Anyone with vascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and a large belly is not a good candidate for the type of spinal surgery that can last six hours or more. The physician should always have that discussion with the patient. If not the physician could be held liable for failing to get informed consent. Choosing the right candidate for surgery, reducing the time on the table and the loss of blood to less than a liter can help eliminate some risk.
Farah & Farah’s Jacksonville medical malpractice attorneys understand that many questions need to be asked immediately after you are diagnosed with POVL in order to preserve your right for compensation. Let us be there for you at this crucial time. Our attorneys and medical personnel understand the complex medical jargon and will able to determine what caused your condition. We may find you can be compensated for your vision loss, pain and suffering and the loss of present and future wages. Call us at 1-855-797-9899 so we can be there for you.