Barbara was like many women who get into their 60s and desire a younger look. She wanted it for herself. She wasn’t happy with her eyelids or the loose skin on her forehead. An ad for a plastic surgeon who was doing seminars in her community caught her eye. She made arrangements to attend and was captivated by his presentation on how dramatically he could improve someone’s appearance with simple procedures. At the end of the seminar she had a personal consultation with the doctor. She put down a sizable deposit and made arrangements for surgery to be done in the weeks that followed.
The Doctor Was Very Personable When “Selling” the Surgery
The doctor’s office was more than an hour from Barbara’s home. His office arranged personal transportation for her to and from the surgery center. It all seemed so professional. She went through the pre-surgical consultation, during which the doctor demonstrated exactly where he would be operating. It would take only a few hours. She was taken into the operating suite and the operation seemed to go smoothly. After the procedure, she was held in a post-surgical area for a short time before she was transported back to her home.
Eyelid Surgery is Not Without Some Risk
One of the procedures the doctor performed on Barbara was an upper blepharoplasty. This procedure involves removing some of the excess tissue and fat of the upper eyelid to give the patient a much brighter open-eyed look. A known but very rare complication of an upper blepharoplasty involves unexpected bleeding of the fat tissues of the upper eyelid into and behind the eye socket. When it occurs, it is truly a medical emergency. The physician must recognize the signs and symptoms, and implement emergency procedures in order to prevent the buildup of pressure on the optic nerve from the accumulation of blood behind the eye.
Many physicians performing upper blepharoplasty surgery require a patient to remain overnight close to the doctor’s office in the event an unexpected complication might develop. Her doctor chose not to do so. Instead, his procedure was to arrange for a nurse to visit the patient in their home the day after the procedure. No regular follow-up was scheduled within seven days.
The Doctor “Dropped the Ball” When the Unexpected Happened
During the first night, Barbara experienced the usual pain, swelling, and bruising expected from the surgery. Some blurred vision is not uncommon. What was uncommon, however, was the markedly decreased vision in one eye she began to experience the following morning as well as severe swelling. She and her husband brought this to the nurse’s attention during that first follow-up visit. The nurse examined her and confirmed she had significant reduction in vision. The nurse actually called the doctor during the visit and was told it was normal.
During the remainder of that day, Barbara’s vision became increasingly worse. Anxious, her husband called the doctor’s emergency number. The doctor returned the call and asked Barbara’s husband to perform a simple vision test, which confirmed she was unable to see two fingers held in front of her eyes. Incredibly, the doctor continued to insist there was nothing unusual about what it was she was experiencing. As a precaution, he sent a nurse to their home the next day. The nurse noted severe swelling of Barbara’s eye (the eyelid would not completely close) and markedly decreased vision. Again, the doctor failed to recognize what was happening and told her the condition was completely normal.
Too Little, Too Late
When Barbara’s vision did not improve, she and her husband made an emergency visit to the doctor’s office. Upon examination, the doctor recognized this was unusual and potentially catastrophic. However, rather than take immediate action to surgically reduce the pressure on the optic nerve, he prescribed her medication and referred her to a specialist in another city. The referral took another day.
Ultimately, Barbara lost vision and became essentially blind in that eye. The specialist diagnosed her symptoms as “retrobulbar hemorrhage,” a relatively rare complication of upper eyelid surgery, but a highly treatable one if diagnosed and acted upon timely. This complication occurs when blood from the upper eyelid leaks into the cavity behind the eyeball. As fluid fills the eye socket, it squeezes the optic nerve and leads to catastrophic vision loss. This is a well-documented potential complication known by all oculoplastic surgeons performing these surgeries. The specialist Barbara saw explained to her that in order to save her vision, emergency medical attention would have been needed, generally within the first 24 hours. By the time she was in the surgeon’s office, they were well outside of that time frame.
Attorney Jim Dodson Files a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Barbara and her husband were referred to medical malpractice attorney Jim Dodson. After a careful pre-suit investigation, which included having all of her surgeon’s medical records reviewed and having her examined by a well-qualified oculoplastic surgeon, Jim sued Barbara’s plastic surgeon for medical malpractice. The lawsuit alleged the surgeon had failed to meet the accepted standard of care by failing to recognize Barbara’s medical emergency, and by failing to refer her immediately to an emergency room or otherwise take corrective surgical action to save her vision.
Barbara’s case was settled on a confidential basis.
Barbara and her husband became quite close to Jim and his staff during the handling of her case. Although they lived several hours from our Clearwater office, Jim visited with them in their home on several occasions working with them on the lawsuit. They have remained in contact since Barbara’s case was settled and we’re privileged to have had them as clients.
If you believe your medical practicioner was negligent or you may have been subjected to medical malpractice you need to speak with an experienced attorney. Contact us online or call us directly at 888-207-0905. We will be happy to answer any questions during your free consultation. Based on your specific circumstances, we may co-counsel with your case with another medical malpractice attorney.
It’s important to keep in mind, in order to have a solid medical malpractice claim your doctor must have been negligent in performing their services or diagnosis. Not every case will qualify as medical malpractice.