Eye Doctors Publish New Guidelines for Refractive Eye Surgery in Ireland


Informed Patient Consent and Responsible Advertising Central to the Guidelines

Patient Education on Eye Health Key Priority for ICO

The Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO), the training body for eye doctors in Ireland and the medical experts on eye care, has today (Sunday, February 7th) published new Guidelines for Refractive Eye Surgery.

The publication, which will be a guide for the public, patients and doctors, was developed by the College in consultation with external expert bodies.

Welcoming the introduction of the Guidelines, incoming President of the ICO, and eye surgeon at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Mr Billy Power said,

“Refractive surgery corrects short or long sightedness and astigmatism and can remove the need to wear spectacles. The ICO has formulated the guidelines to assist people in making an informed decision.  The College has been working closely with our members and the other relevant expert bodies, including the Medical Council, Patient Associations and the Advertising Standards Authority, to ensure this document sets the appropriate standard.

A key priority for the ICO is educating the public on the importance of taking care of their eye health. We are focused on setting the highest standards of eye care in Ireland to ensure best outcomes for patients.”

Experience, Qualification and Clinical Governance of Surgeons

Clear indications relating to the qualifications, facilities and clinical governance of surgeons who perform refractive eye surgery are central to the guidelines, which recommend that surgeons must be registered with the Medical Council (Ireland) on the Division of Ophthalmic Surgery Specialist Register and must have undergone sub specialist training for refractive surgery.

The guidelines also recommend that surgeons must keep their knowledge and skills up to date.

Mr Power said, “The guidelines promote greater transparency and provide the public with information on what to expect during the process, from decision making to the post-operative care standard recommended by the ICO for patients undergoing refractive surgery.”

Standards Relating to Advertising and Marketing

A dedicated section on Standards Relating to Advertising and Marketing are contained in the new Guidelines.  The recommendations were devised following the Medical Advertising in Ireland Meeting, convened by the ICO in September 2014 which facilitated a debate by expert bodies on the impact direct-to-patient advertising for a medical or surgical procedure can have on a patient’s decision making. 

The guidelines state that information on procedures must not trivialise the seriousness of surgery or minimise the potential risks and that time limited deals, financial inducements and any advertising which undermines surgery should not be used.    They include that advertising material must be legal, factual and not misleading and must be designed to safeguard patients from unrealistic expectations. 

Mr Power, who was a key speaker at the Medical Advertising in Ireland Meeting said,

“Direct-to-patient advertising standards are a matter of on-going concern to the ICO.  Our issue is with the promise of outcomes that are not always possible and advertising them in a way that trivialises surgery.  

These guidelines go some way in addressing the issue and promoting the importance of fair and accurate information being communicated to the public, however, the ICO along with our medical colleagues in the specialties of Dermatology and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, believe tighter regulation and formal legislative control is needed to safeguard consumers from inappropriate or pressurised sales techniques.”

A report from the September meeting will be published by the ICO in February 2015.

Overview - Irish College of Ophthalmologists Refractive Surgery Guidelines:

  • The appropriate experience and qualifications of surgeons performing refractive surgery
  • Requirements of the facilities at which it takes place
  • Information that should be provided to patients – must be accurate, fair and balanced
  • The patient consent process
  • Relevant issues of clinical governance
  • Advertising and marketing of services
  • Specific issues related to the post-operative management of patients


A copy of the Refractive Surgery Guidelines is available to download here or at www.eyedoctors.ie


For media enquiries contact:

Ciara Keenan, Communications Manager, Irish College of Ophthalmologists

E: Ciara.keenan@eyedoctors.ie 


9th February 2015