The frequency of perioperative vision loss

Matthew Warner, Mark A. Warner, James A. Garrity, Ronald A. MacKenzie, David O. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


The frequency of perioperative vision loss, especially for spinal surgery, has been increasing recently. We undertook a retrospective study to determine the frequency of this outcome in a large surgical population receiving general or central neuraxis regional anesthesia for noncardiac procedures from 1986 to 1998. Specific criteria were used to separate cases in which the surgical procedure likely directly contributed to the vision loss. Vision loss was present if any part of the visual field was affected. Initial database screening found 405 cases of new-onset vision loss or visual changes in 410,189 patients who underwent 501,342 anesthetics and who survived at least 30 days after their final procedures. Two hundred sixteen of these patients regained full vision or acuity within 30 days. Of the 189 patients who developed vision deficits for longer than 30 days, 185 underwent ophthalmologic or neurologic procedures in which ocular or cerebral tissues were surgically damaged or resected. The remaining 4 patients (1 per 125,234 overall; 0.0008%) developed prolonged vision loss without direct surgical trauma to optic or cerebral tissues. In this large study population of noncardiac surgical patients, including those who underwent spinal surgical procedures, the frequency of perioperative vision loss persisting for longer than 30 days was very small.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1417-1421
Number of pages5
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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