This case involved a 59-year old divorced male, father of two. The plaintiff alleged the cataract surgery performed on his right eye by our ophthalmologist, caused a detached retina.
By history, the patient had been seen by his ophthalmologist and the exam revealed visually significant cataracts. A dilated funduscopic examination revealed normal retinas bilaterally. The patient agreed to sequential cataract surgery and signed a consent form which described the risk of retinal detachment following cataract surgery. The patient underwent an uncomplicated cataract surgery of his left eye on November 13th. His follow up care progressed without difficulty. The patient then had the same procedure performed to his right eye on November 28th. The operative report revealed that the ophthalmologist performed phacoemulsification with posterior chamber intraocular lens of the right eye, with no complications.
During his hospital stay, the patient requested and received pain medication. He was deemed ready for discharge and was directed to follow up in one week. No reported changes were noted at the follow-up appointment and the patient was scheduled to follow up 3 weeks later. On December 13th, the plaintiff presented to his doctor with decreased visual acuity. On exam, his right eye was dilated with a superior retinal tear, extending into the macula. The ophthalmologist immediately referred the patient to a retinal specialist. The retinal specialist performed a retinopexy that same day, followed by laser treatment and vitrectomy, leading to a successful reattachment of the retina.
A lawsuit was brought against the ophthalmologist alleging a failure to properly perform right eye phacoemulsification with posterior chamber intraocular lens placement. As records were obtained and depositions taken, there were marked inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s recall of events when compared to the documentation of both our ophthalmologist and the treating retinal specialist. For example, the patient claimed to have complained of continuous pain throughout the 3-week post-operative course; however, expert testimony opined that a retinal detachment is not painful.
Both the retinal specialist and the expert opined that the retinal detachment, although a recognized complication of cataract surgery, did not occur as a result of the surgery. The defense counsel was able to bring to light that if the posterior capsule had been breached during the cataract surgery, there would have been swelling in the macula and more than likely, the vitreous would have come through the capsule into the anterior chamber, pulling the retina forward. Hence, the retinal detachment would have manifested much sooner than it had in this case.
Despite the depth of technical language and unfamiliar procedures, the jury was able to understand that the retinal detachment was related to the patient’s underlying illness and was not a result of the cataract surgery. Most importantly, our ophthalmologist when faced with an unexpected outcome, expedited the plaintiff’s care to a retinal specialist who then made certain the patient had surgery the same day. The jury returned a defense verdict on behalf of the ophthalmologist.
**Although the disposition of this claim predates the formation of EmPRO, the management of the claim was handled by EmPRO’s management company (PRIMMA, LLC). To learn more about the EmPRO story, click here.