Although an eye condition known as retinal detachment is fairly common, a study has shown that it may be frequently misdiagnosed even among New Mexico patients who have risk factors for the condition. The Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company’s research examined more than 1,600 eye-related malpractice claims and found that there were diagnostic errors in 14% of the claims.

Risk factors for retinal detachment

Of those claims, the retina was involved in 38%, and retinal detachment was a factor in 29%. In the vast majority of these cases, the patients had risk factors for retinal detachment. Among these risk factors are having the eye condition known as myopia or having already had a retinal detachment in the other eye. People who have had cataract surgery, and in particular those who are younger, male or who have other complications, may be more likely to develop a retinal detachment. Trauma to the eye can cause a retinal detachment either immediately or years after the event. Early diagnosis of retinal detachment leads to better outcomes.

Physician inattention

The study also identified factors that could increase the likelihood of misdiagnosis. According to one doctor, the main factor may be distractions during the physician’s examination. Ophthalmologists are dealing with an increasing number of regulations that change often, and they might also be receiving texts from patients while conducting examinations. The problem is not lack of knowledge about retinal detachment but an inability to focus when with a patient.

Other causes

There may be other factors as well. For example, there needs to be good communication among staff about the patient’s medical history and any other factors that might indicate that a retinal detachment has occurred. Patients also need to receive clear education about what to look for, especially if they are in a risk group.

A person who suffers harm because of a medical error that happens a result of negligence could be awarded compensation. An attorney may be able to help determine whether medical malpractice has occurred and what steps to take to pursue a claim.