Medical Community Reacts to ARRS Decision to Adopt Regulation for New Optometric Surgery Law

Sep 13, 2011, 19:31 ET from Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons

FRANKFORT, Ky., Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following statement is from the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (KAEPS) and the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) in response to the Kentucky Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee's decision to adopt the proposed regulation for the new optometric surgery law.

By not deferring the optometric eye surgery regulation for further consideration, the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee (ARRS) dealt a tremendous blow to patient safety in Kentucky. The regulation is woefully inadequate, was developed with restricted input from the public and medical community and put patients in harm's way. The task force that created the regulation for the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners was also mischaracterized by the Board for three months as being appointed by the Governor.  To mischaracterize and not correct for three months this misuse the Governor's name strikes at the very heart of our government system and should be of great concern to the people of the commonwealth and the members of the legislature.

SB 110, which was signed into law in February, allows optometrists, who are not medical doctors, to perform various eye surgeries using lasers, scalpels, needles, ultrasound, ionizing radiation and tools that burn and freeze tissue, to treat complicated conditions such as potentially cancerous eyelid tumors, glaucoma and post-cataract surgery complications. Each of these surgeries can have blinding complications.

Under the regulation, an optometrist may gain surgery authorization from the Board of Optometric Examiners by taking an additional 32 hours of instruction and by performing one laser surgical procedure on just one human eye, with very little one-on-one training.  Such limited classroom experience is deemed sufficient by the board in order to certify an optometrist to perform eye surgery on patients in Kentucky.

By comparison, ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors, spend more than 17,000 hours of hands-on clinical training before they are licensed to perform surgery by themselves. They are required to perform hundreds of surgeries on patients, under the direct supervision of a seasoned surgeon before they are certified. This training takes place over eight years or more of honing their surgical and medical skills − four years of medical school, a one-year hospital internship, and three years of surgical residency.

Yet, as the regulation stands, in Kentucky, an optometrist is only going to need as little as a couple of weekend courses to be certified to perform delicate eye surgeries.

There should be no shortcuts to a medical degree.  You simply can't do away with the need for rigorous surgical training. And the fact remains that the citizens in Kentucky want surgery performed by medical doctors. A poll conducted by CN/2 after the law passed last February found that nearly 80 percent of Kentuckians want any eye surgery to be performed by ophthalmologists.  Citizens in rural areas felt even more strongly that surgery should be left to trained medical doctors.

When it comes to eye surgery, eye injections or removal of even just a small lesion or cyst, patients deserve the best and safest care possible from qualified medical doctors—ophthalmologists who have completed the years of necessary medical education and surgical training to safely perform surgery.

The medical community is committed to educating patients about risks of surgery and the differences between providers so they know how to select the right doctor at the right time.

Before any further actions are taken by KAEPS and the KMA, the medical organizations await a response from the Board on a complaint filed last week in charging that the Board and its task force violated Kentucky's Open Meetings Act as it developed the regulation.

About the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons
The Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons is the professional organization of Eye M.D.s comprised of 112 ophthalmologists from all parts of the Kentucky. Ophthalmologists are Medical Doctors (M.D.) or Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.) who specialize in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and in the prevention of eye disease and injury. Please visit our website at for more information about eye health and related issues. 

About the Kentucky Medical Association
The Kentucky Medical Association is a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization that supports physician members and their patients with a variety of services. The KMA was established in 1851 and has grown to represent and support nearly 7,000 physicians, physician residents, and medical students across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Learn more about the KMA at

SOURCE Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons