Laser eye surgery is becoming an increasingly popular elective procedure, particularly for people wishing to ditch the daily chore of having to wear glasses or contact lenses.
As its popularity increases, more and more people are considering the procedure. In fact, since its introduction in the 90s, millions of Australians have had it done.
Our eyes are such precious resources that it is no wonder people stop and seriously consider the risks involved in laser eye surgery.
This article discusses some of the risks and potential complications or injuries which can occur. It covers what you can do if this happens to you, and answers some commonly-asked questions on the topic, as well as giving you some tips and tricks for what to look out for.
Laser eye surgery is the commonly used term for LA SIK or Lasik, being shorthand for ‘laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis’.
It is performed by an ophthalmologist (a doctor specialising in eye disease and treatment) using a laser to change the shape of the cornea to correct vision problems. The cornea is the eye’s ‘window’ – the front layer of the eye.
Generally, laser eye surgery is performed for problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism. One common LA Sik procedure involves creating a flap in the cornea to access and reshape the tissue lying beneath it, before replacing the flap.
A high percentage (almost 100%) of patients having laser eye surgery are returned to sight that satisfies Australian legal driving requirements. An astoundingly high number (up to 90%) of patients also reaches perfect 20/20 vision after the surgery.
Some patients may still require assistive eyewear after surgery. Generally, people have the procedure done because they cannot wear contact lenses and do not wish to wear glasses for cosmetic reasons, or because of the inconvenience of maintaining eyewear or wearing it during sports and other leisure activities.
Some of the risks in having laser eye surgery performed range from the mild and temporary to the severe and debilitating. They can include:
Although rare, other more serious complications can include:
Some people are at higher risk of there being complications or unexpected outcomes from having laser eye surgery. For example, people in the following categories are generally advised not to have the procedure done:
Can I claim compensation for injuries resulting from laser eye surgery?
While Lasik is increasingly common and popular, with a high rate of patient satisfaction, there is still some risk involved – as there is for any medical procedure you might have done
If you have suffered problems as a result of laser eye surgery, whether you have a claim for compensation depends on whether the problems are serious enough to constitute medical negligence at law.
All accredited medical treatment providers in Australia are expected to practise with reasonable care. They hold duties to provide you with this reasonable standard of care.
Where the injury or condition you suffer can be shown to result from a lower-than-reasonable standard of care, you might have a claim for medical compensation.
These claims can be complicated, and difficult, however.
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One of the reasons for this is that doctors, surgeons, nurses, anaesthetists – and other health providers, are not expected to be perfect. They are still human.
That, combined with the fact that all medical procedures carry inherent risk, means that there are some outcomes from procedures like Lasik that you might be less-than-happy with, but that don’t satisfy the tests for medical negligence.
For example, if an ophthalmologist warns you of the possibility that you might need to use eye drops for dry eyes for several months after surgery, and this happens, despite your discomfort and the inconvenience, you would not have the right to claim for this.
However, if you were warned that you might suffer some loss of vision, and you end up suffering total or near-total permanent vision loss, you may have grounds for a claim.
You can read more about examples of the types of malpractice that might result in a medical negligence claim here: [Hyperlink: https://www.smithslawyers.com.au/help/medical-negligence-medical-malpractice ]
We answer some commonly asked questions about the medical negligence claims process here [hyperlink: https://www.smithslawyers.com.au/services/medical-negligence]
One of the first steps you should consider taking is dealing directly with your ophthalmologist (or the health care provider responsible for your injury).
Sometimes this can be the best way to resolve issues quickly. If this is unsuccessful, your next step might be to lodge a complaint with the Queensland Health Ombudsman [Refer to hyperlink: https://www.smithslawyers.com.au/help/health-ombudsman-complaint]
It is a good idea, at the same time, to seek legal advice about whether to take the complaint further and consider a medical negligence action for compensation.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.