Yes You Can Suffer Blindness and Stroke From Filler Treatment.
Not many people know that blindness is a rare risk of filler treatment. Even fewer know there is also a risk of stroke.
It is rare these days for patients not to be told of the risk of the risk of vascular occlusion. This uncommon complication (about one in 1,000 treatments) develops when the needle or cannula used to inject filler finds its way into one of the arteries supplying blood to the face. If filler is injected into part of one of these arteries it can block part of the blood supply to the face. This is usually recognised straight away or within a few hours and able to be treated with a series of filler dissolving injections. If all the filler is dissolved inside of five days permanent tissue death and scarring can be avoided.
Blindness and stroke occur when larger volumes of filler are injected into an artery. The arteries of the face are thin. If larger volumes of filler is injected into one of them it can travel quite a distance, sometimes to the artery that supplies oxygen to the retina in the back of the eye. And if it does reach the back of the eye it is only a few more millimetres to the brain. Filler in the retina and brain is very difficult if not impossible to remove in the few minutes available before permanent blindness or stroke occurs. Prevention is definitely better than cure because often there is no cure.
Prevention is more likely if the treating practitioner has the knowledge to minimise the risk. Some areas of the face are more dangerous than others. It only takes 0.1ml of filler to reach the retina from the frown lines between the eyes. And only 0.2ml from the nose. It probably takes at least half a ml to reach the retina from the lips which is why blindness has never occurred with lip filler treatment.
It is also important to not falsely believe that you are safe when you may not be. Some practitioners believe that blunt cannulas are safer than sharp needles because a sharp needle can more easily enter an artery. While it is true that a sharp needle is more able to enter an artery it is also able to go straight out again through the other side. That blunt cannula may be less able to get into an artery but once it's in there it stays there. This is one of the reasons why there have been more cases of blindness worldwide with blunt cannula than sharp needle treatment. The case of blindness in New Zealand occurred during treatment of a nose with a blunt cannula.
Blindness or stroke is thought to occur in about one in 200,000 treatments but the exact incidence is not known. No filler treatment is safe but, with knowledge and training, the risk can be reduced. The risk should be discussed with you by your treating practitioner. If not you may need to be concerned that they don't have the knowledge to keep you safe.