When it comes to eye surgery, let’s put patient safety first

Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in creating better vision in their patients. One of their specialties is surgery, on and around the eye, a major procedure that must be performed with expertise and care.

Take, for example, the removal of what appears to be a benign (non-cancerous) skin lesion on the eyelid. There are some who would downplay the seriousness of this as a “minor procedure” to treat a “lump or lump”.

But like all surgeries involving the eye and the surrounding areas, it requires extreme care and experience, and can be devastating if not done correctly. No one can ever be sure that a lesion is cancerous without first sending a sample for a biopsy.

Improper cutting or injection of a cancerous lesion can be extremely harmful to the patient and lead to the threat of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

It doesn’t sound very “simple”, does it?

Now imagine that this “minor procedure” is performed by someone who has never gone to medical school and who does not have the necessary clinical experience because they have never had extensive training in medicine. surgery.

This is exactly what the Florida legislature is proposing with SB 876 and HB 631. This dangerous legislation would greatly expand the scope of practice for optometrists – who are neither physicians nor qualified surgeons – and allow them to perform this type of surgery.

In addition, this would allow optometrists to perform laser surgery on and inside the eyeball himself.

Supporters of the measure say the surgeries are “non-invasive.” But any time a surgical instrument is used to operate on human tissue – especially inside the eye – it is invasive and serious, and should never be taken lightly.

Optometrists are valued members of the eye care team. Their role is important in carrying out eye examinations and vision tests, prescribing corrective lenses and detecting certain eye abnormalities. They may even prescribe a limited number of oral medications for eye care, such as antibiotics and glaucoma medications, in consultation with an ophthalmologist.

Optometrists often help signal red flags in vision and are essential in helping patients see well. But they are not qualified doctors or surgeons. Optometrists do not have the medical education, clinical training, and surgical experience necessary to safely perform delicate eye surgery or to decide when surgery is even the right treatment for the patient’s conditions.

Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, attend four years of medical school, followed by a one-year internship in the hospital and a three-year surgical residency in ophthalmology. Many ophthalmologists then go on to complete one to two years of subspecialty training.

In total, ophthalmologists take at least eight to ten years of postgraduate and clinical training totaling over 17,000 hours before they can independently operate on a patient’s eyes.

The eyes house tissue that does not regenerate on its own. Even a surgical error of just one millimeter resulting from inexperience can be irreparable and can cause lifelong patient damage. This is precisely why only properly trained physicians and surgeons are the only ones who can and should independently perform eye surgery in Florida.

Despite what some supporters of SB 876 and HB 631 have told lawmakers, non-physician providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners do not have the power to independently perform eye surgeries and they do not “supplant” Not optometrists as primary eye care providers in Florida.

This misinformation is useless.

We cannot allow patients to be put at risk by watering down surgical safety standards in Florida. Granting optometrists surgical privileges through medical school and residency legislation is dangerous and poses a huge risk to the quality of care Floridians expect and deserve.

Our elected representatives in the Florida Legislature must not succumb to organized disinformation and manipulative drafting of bills, but rather should do what is in the best interests of the citizens of Florida by strongly rejecting SB 876 and HB 631.


Dr. Sarah wellikis president of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology.

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