Michael Morley, MD, ScM 1, Anne M. Menke, RN, PhD2, Karen C. Nanji, MD, MPH3
1 Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
2 Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company, San Francisco, CA
3 Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Publication date: December 25, 2019
Ophthalmology Journal - a publication of the American Academy of Ophthalmology
PurposeTo evaluate the types of anesthesia-related closed claims and their contributing factors, using data from the Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC).
Retrospective analysis of preexisting data.
Plaintiffs who filed a professional liability claim or suit (written demand for money) against OMIC-insured ophthalmologists, ophthalmic practices, or surgicenters in which the surgical case occurred.
Plaintiff claims were collected from the OMIC database from 2008 to 2018 using search queries for terms associated with known complications of ophthalmic anesthesia.
Main Outcome Measures
Number and types of anesthesia-related injuries and claims, who administered the anesthesia, the outcomes of the claim or suit, cost to defend, and payments made to plaintiffs.
Sixty-three anesthesia-related claims or suits were filed by 50 plaintiffs. Anesthesia-related injuries included globe perforation (n = 17), death (n = 13), retrobulbar hemorrhage (n = 7), optic nerve damage (n = 4), vascular occlusions (n = 2), pain (n = 2), eye or head movement resulting in injury (n = 2), and 1 case each for numbness, diplopia, and tooth loss during intubation. All but 1 patient who died had preexisting, significant comorbidities. Two deaths were related to brainstem anesthesia. Regarding the type of anesthesia in the closed claims, retrobulbar and peribulbar anesthesia were the most common types (n = 16 each), followed by local infiltration around the lids and facial nerve (n = 6), topical anesthesia (n = 5), and general anesthesia (n = 5). In 2 cases, the exact type of anesthesia was unknown but not general. The 5 topical with sedation anesthesia-related claims were due to inadequate pain control (n = 2), ocular movement resulting in capsular rupture (n = 2), or death (n = 1) allegedly related to excessive or inadequate monitoring of sedation. There were 5 claims related to general anesthesia including 4 deaths and 1 tooth loss during intubation. Sedation was alleged to be a factor in 5 cases resulting in death. Anticoagulants were a factor in 3 retrobulbar hemorrhage cases.
Although claims and suits were infrequent given the large number of insured ophthalmologists and the large number of surgical cases requiring various types of anesthesia performed over the 10.5-year study period, severe injuries can occur