Australia’s First Filler Blindness Case Serves as a Cautionary Tale

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An Australian woman reportedly became blind in one eye after receiving dermal filler injections to her face. According to a report by the Australian investigative show Four Corners, a Sydney woman lost her sight in her right eye after undergoing a filler procedure at a beauty salon earlier this year. 

The report details an account of Australia’s first case of blindness caused by filler. In April, the patient was brought to the ophthalmology department at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, but doctors were not able to restore sight in her right eye. Prince of Wales Hospital opthamologist and medical retina specialist Dr. John Downie says although it’s rare, the risk of blindness is possible because of the blood vessels around the eye and nose are in continuity with blood vessels around the retina. “The filler or the other substance is inadvertently injected into one of the blood vessels in the skin or under the skin around the eye and that material goes back along that artery to one of the bigger arteries behind the eye and then it can flow and then block of the blood vessels going to the eye or inside the eye.” 

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According to Four Corner’s report, across the world, 98 people have reportedly gone blind from injected filler. The patient in Australia was said to have had her filler procedure performed by a nurse practitioner at a beauty salon, without a doctor present, which is not an unusual practice these days. It’s this growing trend of having injectable treatments done outside of a qualified doctor’s office that has many physicians worried about exacerbated risks and complications that can occur when choosing an unqualified injector. 

For Largo, FL oculoplastic surgeon Jasmine Mohadjer, MD, the danger of fillers causing blindness is not new, but she says it is a risk that is rare and minimized when a patient does their homework. “I think that any time you do a procedure like this, even though it’s considered noninvasive, a patient should take it seriously and find a reputable place and provider. Whoever does the procedure needs to be qualified, trained, certified and well-versed in the anatomy of the area and potential complications and be ready to recognize the complication in a timely manner.”

“Blindness is an exceedingly rare complication when using filler,” explains Dr. Mohadjer, “but there are certain areas that are more high risk than others. If filler gets inside of a blood vessel and shoots off like an embolus, it essentially acts like a small stroke to that area. Blood is not getting to the eye because the filler is occluding the blood vessel. You want an injector that is not only knows where to inject and what to inject—for instance, I would never inject filler in the glabellar area where Botox is often used—but also techniques to avoid complications such as this.”

The takeaway from the Four Corners investigation is the same message Dr. Mohadjer preaches, noninvasive procedures are not without their own set of risks, all of which can be greatly reduced by patient education and choosing the right provider. “Patients should approach any cosmetic procedure the same way they would an intensive surgery. First, choose a physician who is not only board-certified, but specifically trained in the procedure they’re going to perform,” adds the doctor. “Also, never have a procedure or treatment done without first discussing with your doctor the possible risks that are associated with that procedure.”

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