Multi-million dollar recovery due to delay in treating vision problem

A young man reported to the emergency room of a local Pittsburgh hospital with sudden onset of headache and double vision.  Tests revealed that he was suffering Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH), a condition in which pressure in the brain suddenly increases for no apparent reason.  One of the known potential consequences of IIH is vision loss due to the pressure in the brain compressing the optic nerve.  IIH usually requires urgent treatment with surgery to relieve the pressure from the optic nerve.  In this case, however, even though the emergency staff and an eye specialist diagnosed the patient with IIH and were aware that he was having visual changes, they discharged him to home with just a prescription for some medication rather than admitting him to the hospital and arranging for emergency surgery.


He returned to the eye doctor, known as an ophthalmologist, a week later and even though his vision was worse, he still did not admit him to the hospital for surgery to relieve the pressure in the brain.  One week later, the young man had near complete vision loss.  At that time, he was finally admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery, but by that time, it was too late to restore his vision.


Most medical cases require testimony from medical specialists to establish that a doctor or a hospital made a medical mistake.  In this case, we enlisted the support of a neuro-ophthalmologist, a specialist in vision loss relating to problems in the brain.  He reviewed all of the patient’s medical records and said that there was indeed a medical mistake here, and this patient should have been admitted to the hospital the first time he presented to the emergency room.  The expert said that this young man’s IIH was “fulminant,” which means it was of rapid onset and a threat to cause total and complete vision loss.  Therefore, the emergency room physician and the eye specialist who was consulted on the case should have recognized that this patient needed immediate surgery to relieve the pressure on the optic nerve.


After presenting our case to the hospital, including the opinion of the neuro-ophthalmologist, the hospital agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement of the case.  Of course, no settlement, however large, could restore the patient’s vision, but the settlement did provide our client with the opportunity for financial security throughout the rest of his life, something that was quite important since it was likely that he was never going to work again.