Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015

Japan’s sometimes troubled relationship with refractive surgery suffered another complication following the release of a government report critical of LASIK.

The report, issued by Japan’s Consumer Protection Agency in late 2013, was based on an internet survey of 1,200 people in Japan, 600 of whom had undergone LASIK and another 600 who were considering having the procedure.

Among those who underwent LASIK, 74 per cent of patients reported they were informed of potential side effects beforehand. The same percentage reported that they did achieve the refractive correction they were hoping for.

However, the report cited nearly 80 cases of patient complaints. These included glare sensitivity (16 per cent), dry eye (14 per cent), over-correction (five per cent) and pain lasting more than one month (two per cent).

The report contains a dramatic warning that “not only may you not get the results you were looking for, you also run the risk of serious injury”. This was widely reported in the Japanese media.

The report concludes that the risks are not adequately explained to patients when they are considering LASIK.

It reports that 40 per cent of patients who chose to undergo LASIK did so based on information they found on the internet (from official medical sources or from medical advertisements), information which has not been verified to adhere to the relevant consumer protection laws. Some of these promotional internet sources were reportedly misleading or downright false.

“Rather than choosing LASIK lightly based on information from the internet, we advise consumers to hear the full explanation of the surgery’s risks from a licensed medical professional. Consumers should think carefully about whether they will really benefit from LASIK, and understand the risks of the surgery well before undergoing LASIK,” the report advises.


Findings questioned

While refractive surgeons in Japan agree completely that consumers should consult with licensed medical professionals and should learn the potential risks of the procedure, they question the findings of the report.

“We do not think the governmental report was fair since it was not based on scientific research,” Hiroko Bissen-Miyajima MD, president of the
Japanese Society
of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (JSCRS) told

“After the report on TV and newspapers, some patients even cancelled their surgeries. For most clinics, the number of patients who came for LASIK dramatically decreased. Some places experienced more than a 50 per cent decrease in patients and have only slightly recovered up until now,” said Dr

“This is a tough time for refractive surgery in Japan. We do not know how long it will last. We are at the bottom of the situation and are trying to educate both ophthalmologists and patients to understand the safety and effectiveness

“We, as a society (JSCRS), collected the data from laser centres, universities and clinics, and received the results from over 70,000 cases in 2013. We reported this at the JSCRS annual meeting in July 2014 and plan to publish soon. This data is very positive and different from what the government report showed,” Dr Bissen-Miyajima told EuroTimes.

Minoru Tomita MD, director of the high-volume Shinagawa LASIK clinic in Tokyo, told EuroTimes that before the report appeared he had 100 surgeons on staff. Following the resultant drop in demand, he had to reduce this number by one third. Other high volume clinics were equally affected, including one that closed its doors.

“Once Japanese patients believe that LASIK will cause lots of problems after surgery, it is very difficult for us to change their thoughts. The JSCRS is planning to make the best LASIK website for Japanese patients. This will include the explanation of the procedure, indication, postoperative outcomes and Q&A,” Dr Bissen-Miyajima told EuroTimes.


Hiroko Bissen-Miyajima:

Minoru Tomita: