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Written on 6th September 2023 by Sita Soni

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence solicitors have secured an admission of liability for a man who lost the vision in one eye after a four-month delay in diagnosis and treatment of acanthamoeba keratitis (parasitic eye infection). 

Our client injured his right eye whilst gardening. He was wearing contact lenses, which increased his risk of corneal infection (keratitis) from a microscopic organism called acanthamoeba, which is commonly found in soil or water. He developed pain and blurred vision, which were not relieved by eye drops from the optician. On his GP’s advice, he went to A&E at the defendant hospital, where they diagnosed mild corneal abrasion and prescribed treatment with antibiotic ointment.

No action taken by hospital eye clinic to investigate acanthamoeba in high risk patient

He was reviewed in the eye clinic at the hospital two days later. The doctor noted that he was a contact lens wearer and had keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) following trauma to the eye. He was given eye drops and a swab was taken to investigate for herpes simplex (HSV) and varicella zoster (VZV) viruses. The possibility of acanthamoeba associated with his contact lens wearing was noted in his records but no action was taken to investigate, treat or follow-up the possibility of acanthamoeba infection.

He was reviewed at the hospital eye clinic on multiple occasions over the next three months, during which his eye symptoms were treated with eye drops, ointments, antivirals (acyclovir), antifungal drops and antibiotics. No further consideration was given to the possibility of acanthamoeba as an alternative diagnosis, despite his increased risk, the ineffective intensive antibiotic treatment and negative test results for the herpes viruses and fungal infection. In addition, he was prescribed corticosteroid eye drops, which were inappropriate and contraindicated for him as a contact lens wearer with a persisting, significant, unidentified infection.

After more than three months of ineffective treatment, he still had pain in his eye, worsening vision, a large corneal ulcer with signs of inflammation and infection, and raised intraocular pressure which had not responded to treatment. Anti-acanthamoeba drops were finally added to his ongoing treatments but were then stopped when he visited the hospital’s eye casualty unit with worsened eye pain. After further reviews in the eye clinic, he was referred to Moorfields for confocal microscopy and expert opinion but did not receive an appointment as no urgency was stated on the referral. He remained under the care of the hospital eye clinic, until a B scan (brightness scan) revealed evidence of vitritis (inflammation of the membrane within the eye). He was referred urgently to a specialist eye hospital, where he was admitted and treated for acanthamoeba, which was confirmed on corneal biopsy. He later underwent corneal transplants and cataract extraction but lost the vision in the eye.

Making a claim for compensation

We helped our client pursue a claim for compensation from the hospital arising from their repeated failure to investigate, diagnose or treat our client for acanthamoeba, which was consistent with his high risk of the condition as a contact lens wearer, and his significant, atypical, chronic eye infection. We pursued the claim on the basis that with correct investigation, diagnosis and treatment, our client would have made a full recovery and would have retained his vision. In addition, the negligent treatment with steroids also contributed to his poor outcome and loss of vision.

Admission of liability and apology

The hospital’s defence team at NHS Resolution responded by admitting liability (responsibility) for our client’s loss of sight and offered to make a formal apology to our client.  We are now working with our client and experts to understand the lifelong impact of our client’s injury, so that we can assess the value of his claim and negotiate a compensation settlement with NHS Resolution.

Our client kindly commented:

“I was very apprehensive when looking for a medical negligence solicitor to take on my case. We found Sita at Boyes Turner online through a publication about a similar case to ours, and since starting the process with her we have never looked back. We have had constant communication, thorough conversations and clear and precise instructions throughout the entire process. This was a seamless and successful process, and we are all delighted with the outcome." 

If you have suffered severe injury in an accident or as a result of medical negligence or have been contacted by HSIB/HSSIB/MNSI/CQC or NHS Resolution, you can talk to a solicitor, free and confidentially, for advice about how to respond or make a claim by contacting us.