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Optometrist reprimanded for missed brain tumour

14/02/2018By Matthew Woodley
A New Zealand optometrist has been reprimanded after it was found his negligence led to him missing a brain tumour in a six-year-old boy, leaving the patient almost blind.

According to a report released Monday by the Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner, Ms Meenal Duggal, the boy presented at the unnamed optometrist’s clinic with visual acuity that was recorded as 6/10 in the left eye and 6/x in the right. Despite this, the optometrist recorded the visit as ‘routine’ and did not test for any pathologies or refer the boy for further testing – something the optometrist later told the commissioner would have been his normal practice.

Instead, the boy was diagnosed with amblyopia and possible extropia, and prescribed glasses. In the report, optometry expert Mr Richard Johnson indicated ‘6/x’ was not a standard level of measured vision and that the optometrist in question should have performed further assessments, including counting fingers at one metre and light perception tests.

Johnson also asserted that not testing the level of vision in the boy’s right eye, despite his understanding and cooperation, was a severe departure from the expected standard of care. Furthermore, he was critical of the fact that the optometrist did not consider any other diagnoses before making a definitive diagnosis of amblyopia.

Fourteen months after the misdiagnosis, the boy developed a severe headache, increased vision problems, and walking difficulties. Eventually, he began rubbing his forehead and banging it against the wall, while he also lost the ability to see or read and was barely talking.

The boy was sent to the hospital by his GP for an urgent CT scan, which revealed a craniopharyngioma, a type of brain tumour. Following surgery to remove the tumour, the boy remained completely blind in his right eye, and had very poor vision in his left.

The report found the now-retired optometrist in breach of the Code of Health and his practice, which he owned, liable for the poor care provided. The optometrist has since expressed profound regret over the botched treatment and apologised “profusely” to the family.

More reading: The full report.

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