Texas ophthalmologist fails to correct posterior capsule damage, vitreous leak during cataract surgery

There are risks to having any surgery. Some risks are avoidable with appropriate care and attention from the surgeon and operating room staff. Other risks are unavoidable even when the operating room team complies with the standard of care.

The risks of problems that can occur even with proper care are called known complications. When a known complication occurs, surgeons and other healthcare providers are often quick to point out that “these things unfortunately happen.” From a medical-legal standpoint, though, the analysis doesn’t end there.

This is exactly the situation that we’re confronting on behalf of a client in a new medical malpractice lawsuit that we filed today in a state district court in Victoria County, Texas against a local ophthalmologist named Robert McMahon, M.D. The case is now pending in the 24th District Court, where The Honorable Jack Marr is the presiding judge. You can read the petition here.

Our client, a woman in her 60s from Yoakum County, saw Dr. McMahon because of blurry vision. He diagnosed her with cataracts in both eyes and recommended surgery for her right eye.

Cataracts is a medical condition where the lens, which is normally clear, becomes cloudy. Just like a foggy windshield, it makes vision challenging. In cataract surgery, an ophthalmologic surgeon removes the patient’s lens, typically replacing it with an artificial one.

One of the known complications of cataract surgery is damage to the posterior capsule of the eye.

The posterior capsule of the eye is located behind the lens. It contains a gel-like substance called vitreous humor. When the posterior capsule is torn or punctured, there’s a leak of vitreous humor.

According to our expert ophthalmologist who carefully studied our client’s medical records, that’s exactly what happened in this case.

When encountering this complication, the standard of care requires the ophthalmologist to recognize the damaged posterior capsule and leak, and to then to remove every trace of vitreous humor from the wound and anterior chamber (the area in front of the lens). This is a separate procedure called an anterior vitrectomy.

Ophthalmologists are trained to recognize this complication. They also understand that failing to perform an anterior vitrectomy poses needless risks to the patient in the form of infection, cystoid macular edema, and retinal detachment.  

In our client’s case, though, Dr. McMahon chose against performing an anterior vitrectomy. Both on the day of surgery and multiple post-operative visits, he also failed to notify his patient that he encountered the complication of puncturing the posterior chamber during surgery, or his decision against removing the vitreous humor leak.

The patient finally sought treatment from a new optometrist and ophthalmologist, and finally learned what had happened in the operating room at Dr. McMahon’s hands. The new optometrist noted that she had an irregular, abnormal right pupil; damage to her iris; and three sutures at the site where Dr. McMahon had punctured her posterior capsule. 

On top of that, her new ophthalmologist identified a strand of vitreous humor gel that had leaked and migrated forward into the anterior chamber. She was diagnosed with cystoid macular edema (CME) as a direct result of Dr. McMahon’s failure to identify and correct the intraoperative complication of the lacerated posterior chamber.

This left our client with facing another surgery for a anterior vitrectomy to remove the vitreous gel and replacement of her lens. Despite these additional interventions, this unfortunate woman continues to experience vision fluctuation and high pressure in her right eye.

This new case illustrates that just because a patient experiences a known surgical complication it doesn’t mean that the surgeon and operating room team’s care after complication occurred wasn’t negligent.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor medical care in Texas, then contact a top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.