Medical technology and capability have evolved tremendously over time. Diagnostic tools such as ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs continue to improve. These technologies greatly enhance the ability of a medical care provider to identify issues and treat patients.
New and better medical devices have also been developed. Some seem simple, such as the invention of the disposable catheter. Yet it has been instrumental in reducing infection. Others sound more advanced, such as insulin pumps, pacemakers, artificial hearts, artificial limbs, and artificial joints.
Another important part of the evolution has been the development of lasers and their application to medicine. Lasers can be used to help diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer. They can also be used in medical procedures, such as LASIK. In this article, we will discuss LASIK and whether resulting complications from the procedure can be the result of medical malpractice.
What is LASIK?
Most people have heard of LASIK and know that generally it is a procedure to correct vision issues. “LASIK” is an acronym that stands for laser assisted in situ keratomileusis. It is a surgical procedure that changes the shape of the cornea with the intention of lessening or eliminating the patient’s need for contact lenses or classes.
Techniques for LASIK can vary, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides a helpful general description, summarized as follows. A laser (or sometimes a mechanical blade) cuts a flap in the cornea. The flap is folded back to provide access to a portion of the cornea called the stroma. A laser is used to remove part of the stroma. The flap is then replaced.
Unintended LASIK outcomes
The FDA notes that most patients are happy with the outcome from LASIK surgery. However, the agency also points out that the following risks are involved:
- Vision loss
- Dry eye syndrome
- Unknown long-term results due to lack of long-term data because the procedure is relatively new
- Results may diminish over time for some far-sighted patients
- Development of debilitating visual symptoms, including halos, glare, and/or double vision at night
- Impact to low contrast vision
- Risk of undertreatment or overtreatment
When are bad LASIK outcomes the result of medical malpractice?
As we all know, sometimes bad outcomes result even when everything is done correctly. However, bad outcomes can also be the result of medical malpractice. When a health care provider fails to meet the applicable medical standard of care and causes harm, the patient is entitled to sue for damages and to be made whole. Below, we will provide some examples.
Failure to properly screen candidates: Some patients have issues with their corneas that make them poor candidates for LASIK. A doctor who fails to properly screen patients and proceeds to perform surgery on a candidate that is likely to have a bad result could be responsible for malpractice.
Misidentification of patient: In one case, a doctor’s staff input the wrong patient’s information into the laser. This and other misidentification issues that lead to harm can constitute malpractice.
Surgical mistakes: A number of surgical mistakes can result in harm. Sometimes a doctor might remove too much or too little of the patient’s corneal material and violate the standard of care. Another example would be re-attaching the flap material incorrectly, which can lead to infection and other problems. There can also be adverse effects if the laser is not centered properly.
Call with Questions
If you or a loved one has suffered unintended consequences from LASIK surgery, you probably have questions concerning whether your problems are the result of medical malpractice. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield can answer your questions and help you understand your options.
Investigating medical malpractice is complicated, and we have the team that can help you. We have assisted clients throughout Oregon. We believe that it is essential to identify and hold negligent professionals responsible for their wrongdoing so that our clients will be made whole and all of society will be made safer.