The patients underwent a vitrectomy, which is a routine procedure in which the old vitreous humor is removed and replaced by a liquid or a gel.
Over the last 15 years, 20,000 similar operations have been carried out and the probability of not succeeding is less than 1 out of 2,000. The last month it has nevertheless gone wrong three times. Normally, patients should see better again after a few weeks, but instead they had become blind in the treated eye.
An investigation has been started to find out what went wrong. Van Eldere says: "The most likely explanation at the moment is that one of the substances used during this procedure was contaminated with potentially toxic substances that caused damage to the eye, which ultimately led to blindness. We fear that the damage to the eye is irreversible for these three patients."
Van Eldere assures that patients will be compensated and the details of the reimbursment will depend to a large extent on the outcome of the investigation and whether it can be found out what exactly was going wrong.
In the meantime, the hospital carries on with those operations. "We have taken some measures to prevent these cases to be repeated," comments Van Eldere. The suspicious products have been quarantined and new products are being used.