Eyes right?

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted on Monday, February 20th, 2017

Eye surgery is becoming much more widely used in the UK. Laser surgery is more widely available and there are now several different procedures available to correct the most common eyesight problems.

Cataract operations, and surgery for other eye diseases and complaints such as diabetic retinopathy, are offered by the NHS, but vision correction surgery is not generally available. This means that many people need to find a private surgeon to carry out their eye operation.If you’re contemplating having eye surgery, for routine operations such the removal of cataracts, or you’re opting for vision correction surgery, then you will want to be sure that you know what the procedure involves and fully understand the risks inherent in your treatment. Doing your research is an important step in finding the right surgeon.


Choosing a surgeon

The only legal requirement for doctors performing eye surgery is that they are registered with the General Medical Council. However, many surgeons performing laser techniques now hold the Certificate in Laser Refractive Surgery.

Therefore, it is very important that you do your homework before choosing a surgeon. You can check the status of a doctor’s practising certificate on the GMC website and also whether they are a Consultant in a particular field of practice. The GMC website will state whether the doctor is on the “specialist register” of a specific area of medicine, in which case they are a Consultant in that field. In respect of eye surgery, the surgeon should be on the Ophthalmology Specialist Register.


Cataract surgery

When it comes to choosing a surgeon for cataract surgery, it’s important to be aware that this operation has the advantage that it is easy to measure both results and complications, so if your surgeon does not know or is unable to tell you their complication rate, you should look elsewhere.

In the UK, most eye surgeons have carried out between 500 to 1,000 cataract operations by the time they reach consultant level, and then carry out between 300 to 500 procedures a year. Their average complication rate generally reduces from 10 per cent to 2 per cent over the course of their training.

Poor surgical technique when carrying out the operation can fail to properly treat the cataract or cause significant complications which leads to visual impairment, so making the right choice of surgeon is critical.


Vision correction

Laser surgery is becoming increasingly popular, freeing people with long and short sightedness and astigmatism, from the need for spectacles and contact lenses. Around 120,000 laser eye surgeries are carried out each year, according to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

It works by using a laser to permanently change the shape of the cornea and the lens that sits behind the pupil. The procedure can often take less than an hour.

For around 95 per cent of patients, the outcome is excellent. However, problems can and do occur, and for the remaining five per cent, their surgery can worsen rather than improve their vision.


Consultations and examinations

There are various types of laser surgery available; for instance, LASIK, LASEK PRK, ALK and Wavefront are all forms of surgery that you may hear mentioned. As not all patients are suitable for laser surgery, it’s very important that your doctor carries out an in-depth assessment of your condition and that you undergo a thorough examination, so that the procedure that is carried out is appropriate for your condition.

When problems occur they often do so because the wrong technique was used, or the operating equipment wasn’t used appropriately. Serious complications can include double vision, corneal scarring and deterioration in eyesight.


Be better informed

If you’re having the surgery carried out under the NHS or privately, and you have concerns about the procedure, you can always ask for a second opinion. You should have the risks involved in any procedure fully explained to you, and you should be made aware of what side-effects you can expect to experience temporarily after the operation, such as blurred vision or minor discomfort.

One of Madeline Seibert’s recent negligent ophthalmic treatment cases was settled for a six-figure compensation award a matter of months before a trial was due to take place.

This is an example of a case which should have been admitted early, allowing compensation to be provided in a timely manner to the patient who was practically blind in one eye due to negligence. Instead, the case took nearly four years to resolve because liability was denied.


Your next step

Our Medical Negligence team are on hand to talk about your healthcare issues and answer your questions. So, if you’d like a confidential discussion, please call us on 0203 468 3340, or you can visit our website attwatersjamesonhill.co.uk and complete our online contact form.

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