Tokyo Eye Surgeon Arrested for Infecting LASIK Patients

LASIK Surgeon Arrested What is LASIK?
Laser in-situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, is generally a safe and effective type of laser eye surgery used for a variety of frequently occurring vision-related disorders. It is also the most common elective (optional) surgery in the United States. A typical LASIK surgery is aimed to change the corneal shape by trimming on permanent basis so that the focusing system of the eye is restructured & modified forever. This allows a person to see objects clearly without the need for contacts or glasses.

Statistics indicate that about 90% of the patients undergoing the LASIK treatment achieve 20/20 vision and 99% are able to see better than 20/40 —the minimum requirement for driving a motor vehicle. The short duration of the method, accuracy, precision and higher safety standards make LASIK one of most frequently performed eye procedures to treat a variety of refractive disorders such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. However, as is the case with any other surgery, LASIK, if performed without proper physician & patient hygiene, can lead to serious complications including bacterial & fungal eye infections.

The arrest of Dr.Tomoo Mizoguchi – A classic case of malpractice during LASIK
On Tuesday, December 7, 2010, Japanese police arrested an eye doctor in Tokyo, in a first of its kind case in the world. The arrest was made after Police reportedly received several complaints from different sources that the doctor was directly responsible for spreading various eye infections among his patients by conducting LASIK surgeries in unsterilized (unhygienic) conditions. Therefore, Dr. Tomoo Mizoguchi, aged 49, was arrested on suspicion of professional / criminal negligence. A former director of the Ginza Ganka ophthalmology clinic located in Tokyo’s Ginza district, Dr. Mizoguchi reportedly continued to conduct LASIK surgeries using unsterilized medical tools used in the procedure for the period between September 2008 and January 2009. It was also alleged that the doctor continued his malpractice despite being aware of the fact that some of his patients had already contracted eye-related infections.

According to the local health authorities, a survey found that at least 75 patients who underwent LASIK procedure under his direct supervision later reported a variety of eye infections. It was noted that 20 of these patients reported contracting serious eye infections such as keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) and keratohelcosis (corneal ulcers). In July 2009, about 50 of these patients actually sued him with serious charges in the Tokyo District Court, accusing him of deliberately causing & spreading eye infections among his patients.

The police also found that Dr. Mizoguchi had touched patients' eyes during the surgery with bare hands (without using surgical gloves) and had also reused disposable surgical devices that must be discarded after single use.

Price wars – The main reason for professional malpractice & criminal negligence
The financial factor is supposedly considered the biggest factor that led to the deliberate criminal negligence by the Japanese doctor. According to the media reports, Ginza Ganka clinic, located in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, offered lucrative cash incentives, bonuses & even discounts for people who would opt for LASIK at the clinic. The doctor also promised LASIK surgery for a price as low as 100,000 yen on weekdays, and provided cash incentives of 20,000 to 30,000 yen to people who introduced friends and family members. Solid cash discounts of 5,000 were also offered to the people who were introduced to him for the procedure. Hygienists believe that Dr. Mizoguchi cut sanitation administration expenses in order to keep the cost of the LASIK surgery low. It must be remembered that LASIK surgery is not covered by health insurance and the persons, themselves, must bear the all the costs involved in the procedure.

How to minimize the risk of infection in LASIK patients?
This unfortunate but unique case emphasizes the importance of maintaining strict hygiene standards sterile, aseptic conditions during LASIK and any other eye surgery / treatment. To minimize the risk of contagious infections during LASIK, proper surgical and medicinal protocols should be observed and practiced by the surgeon. Careful attention to patient selection, sterile technique, monitoring the surgery room conditions, and hygiene are important. Similarly, change of disposable tools and the blade is mandatory to prevent contamination from the first eye. LASIK, if performed under proper safety protocols and sterile conditions, will not only improve patient’s quality of life and vision but will also enhance others’ confidence on the eye surgeon and his / her practice standards.

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