Postoperative Visual Loss Registry

Postoperative vision loss is a rare but devastating complication of non-ophthalmic surgery. Patients have developed visual loss or complete blindness in one or both eyes following uneventful surgeries on the heart, spine and blood vessels, as well as reconstructive surgery and other surgeries.

The Committee on Professional Liability for the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) hopes to collect a large number of detailed case reports of visual loss after non-ophthalmic surgery. Ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) is one common diagnosis. The cause of this ION is still only theory. A variety of causes or contributing factors have been suggested, but not necessarily proven, such as:

  • Pre-existing conditions of patients such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, male sex, hypertension, unusual anatomy of the eye, the optic nerve and its blood supply;
  • Elevated venous pressure in the head and neck (e.g., surgery on the back or in the head down position) for prolonged durations;
  • Specific types of surgical frames that may increase the venous pressure in the head;
  • Prolonged surgery in the prone or head down position with large blood loss and administration of large amounts of fluid;
  • Low blood pressure;
  • Low red blood cell count (anemia).

Note to patients

The ASA Postoperative Visual Loss Registry is primarily designed to aid physicians in improving their clinical practice. We are sorry we cannot address individual patient questions or provide medical or legal advice. You may wish to view a handout in PDF we have made that summarizes the issues of postoperative visual loss.

                      

     Partial visual loss                         Illustration of decreased vision