GER­MAN VI­SION TO SEE CLEARLY

Ham­burg-based clinic brings pre­ci­sion and fi­nesse to the eye surgery field in China, re­ports from Shang­hai.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - ENTREPRENEUR SPECIAL -

EuroEyes is one of Ger­many’s largest in­de­pen­dent eye surgery clin­i­cal groups and among the first to es­tab­lish a clinic in China, pro­vid­ing spe­cial­ized cor­rec­tive surgery for re­frac­tive vi­sion er­rors.

The group cov­ers the full spec­trum of re­frac­tive surgery from laser to lens treat­ments, en­abling the cor­rec­tion of near­sight­ed­ness, far­sight­ed­ness, cataracts, pres­by­opia – the loss of the abil­ity to fo­cus up close that comes with ag­ing – and other com­mon af­flic­tions of the eye.

Founded in 1993 by renowned oph­thal­mol­o­gist Jørn S. Jør­gensen, EuroEyes has over the past two decades built an ex­ten­sive net­work of li­censed eye clin­ics across Ger­many as well as in Jør­gensen’s na­tive Den­mark.

The com­pany is owned and op­er­ated by its doc­tors rather than pri­vate in­vestors, al­low­ing them to pri­or­i­tize med­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions in their busi­ness de­ci­sions.

“For this busi­ness, the med­i­cal stand­point is crit­i­cal,” says Jør­gensen, who serves as EuroEyes pres­i­dent, chief ex­ec­u­tive and head doc­tor. “As doc­tors, we know which treat­ments will be most ef­fec­tive for our pa­tients and the equip­ment that will pro­vide op­ti­mal re­sults in surgery.”

Af­ter more than 18 months of prepa­ra­tion, its first China clinic opened in April in Jin­mao Tower in the Pudong dis­trict of Shang­hai.

EuroEyes chose Shang­hai for its ro­bust econ­omy and long-time sis­ter city re­la­tion­ship with Ham­burg. The Ham­burg Cham­ber of Com­merce played a de­ci­sive role in the plan­ning and setup of the clinic, Jør­gensen says.

To main­tain Ger­man stan­dards and the EuroEyes brand, a team of Ger­man doc­tors led by Jør­gensen per­forms all sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures at the Shang­hai clinic.

EuroEyes is the only eye surgery clinic in China that of­fers such a ser­vice. Its four doc­tors travel be­tween Ger­many and China on a ro­tat­ing ba­sis to en­sure there are al­ways sev­eral on duty at the Shang­hai clinic.

“It is our goal not only to cor­rect the re­frac­tive er­ror, but to pro­vide an over­all im­prove­ment in the qual­ity of vi­sion,” says Jør­gensen. “We can en­sure that here by pro­vid­ing our Chi­nese pa­tients with the same in­dus­try-lead­ing treat­ments we are known for in Europe. Ev­ery­thing is iden­ti­cal – the tech­nol­ogy, the equip­ment, the pro­ce­dures and, of course, the doc­tors.”

Costs are the same too, Jør­gensen says, but EuroEyes of­fers pre­mium treat­ments un­avail­able else­where in China. For in­stance, high vol­ume sur­geons – doc­tors who in­de­pen­dently per­form at least 1,000 surg­eries yearly in a laser eye center op­er­ate on pa­tients at the Shang­hai clinic.

Over­all, the EuroEyes sur­geons have car­ried out more than 200,000 laser eye surg­eries and more than 100,000 in­traoc­u­lar surg­eries.

In cataract surgery, an ar­ti­fi­cial lens im­plant also known as an in­traoc­u­lar lens, is used to re­place the eye’s cloudy nat­u­ral lens and re­store nor­mal vi­sion.

EuroEyes can also per­form re­frac­tive lens ex­changes to cor­rect pres­by­opia, which usu­ally sets in be­tween the ages of 45 and 50. Tra­di­tion­ally, pres­by­opia was treated with pre­scrip­tion glasses to im­prove read­ing vi­sion, as even laser cornea surgery is un­able to cor­rect it. But a re­frac­tive lens ex­change gives pa­tients a gen­uine al­ter­na­tive, says Jør­gensen. “The re­place­ment lens used in re­frac­tive lens ex­change can dras­ti­cally re­duce or elim­i­nate pres­by­opia,” he says. “It al­lows clear vi­sion at all dis­tances and means peo­ple can be free of eye­glasses even in later life.” Ad­di­tion­ally, the re­frac­tive ex­change lens will al­ways re­main clear, he says, adding: “Pa­tients who have un­der­gone the pro­ce­dure will never be both­ered by cataracts again.”

In­no­va­tion has been in­te­gral to EuroEyes’ suc­cess, Jør­gensen says.

In 2004, the Ham­burg-based clinic was one of the first in Ger­many to use the fem­tosec­ond laser in cataract surgery, which al­lows sur­geons to make pre­cise cuts in tar­geted ar­eas with­out dam­ag­ing sur­round­ing tis­sues.

Then in 2011, the clinic was again at the fore­front of the in­dus­try as it be­gan us­ing the ad­vanced im­ageguided LenSx fem­tosec­ond laser, which fea­tures a cus­tom­iz­a­ble three di­men­sional sur­gi­cal plat­form that lets doc­tors visu­al­ize and ex­e­cute many of cataract surgery’s most chal­leng­ing steps.

With its adept use of this tech­nol­ogy, EuroEyes is the first clinic in China to per­form cataract surgery with­out bladed in­stru­ments.

Ad­di­tion­ally, since the in­tro­duc­tion of iDe­sign tech­nol­ogy, EuroEyes is able to de­ter­mine the aber­ra­tions of the eye in more than 1,250 mea­sured points and uti­lize those mea­sure­ments in its laser eye treat­ments.

In China, where near­sight­ed­ness is com­mon, de­mand for cor­rec­tive pro­ce­dures is high and such op­er­a­tions ac­count for a large per­cent­age of the surg­eries per­formed in the EuroEyes Shang­hai clinic, Jør­gensen says.

A 2011 sur­vey con­ducted by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, which in­volved 350,000 young Chi­nese na­tion­wide, found 41 per­cent of pri­mary school chil­dren, 67 per­cent of mid­dle school stu­dents and 85 per­cent of univer­sity stu­dents suf­fered from my­opia.

Jør­gensen says he be­lieves a lack of time spent out­doors as well as in­ces­sant use of por­ta­ble elec­tronic de­vices are con­tribut­ing to the un­usu­ally high preva­lence of my­opia in Chi­nese chil­dren.

“Sus­tained ex­po­sure to nat­u­ral light does seem to of­fer some pro­tec­tion from short-sight­ed­ness,” he says. “But it may not be enough if your face is glued to the screen of your smart­phone for the en­tire day. When you fo­cus on some­thing too close, it places strain on the eye and can dam­age your vi­sion.”

Ac­cord­ing to re­search cited in the UK news­pa­per The Ex­press in Au­gust, smart­phone users hold their hand­sets just 18-30 cen­time­ters away from their faces, com­pared with news­pa­pers and books typ­i­cally held at a dis­tance of 40 cen­time­ters.

Jør­gensen does not ad­vo­cate aban­don­ing smart­phones, ad­mit­tedly a fruit­less en­deavor, but he does be­lieve it is im­per­a­tive to use hand­sets in moder­a­tion. Start by tak­ing a break from that lit­tle screen and fo­cus­ing on some­thing in the dis­tance, he says. “When you look into the dis­tance, the eye is re­laxed as it fo­cuses on de­tail that is far away in­stead of close.”

Per­sons af­flicted with my­opia are more sus­cep­ti­ble to other eye prob­lems later in life, Jør­gensen adds. One of the most se­vere is mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion, char­ac­ter­ized by a loss of vi­sion in the mac­ula – the center of the vis­ual field – re­sult­ing from dam­age to the retina. Mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion is a pri­mary cause of vis­ual im­pair­ment and blind­ness in adults over 50.

For pa­tients with ex­treme my­opia, which EuroEyes de­fines as over -8.0 diopters – a unit for mea­sur­ing the re­frac­tive power of a lens – Jør­gensen rec­om­mends the im­plantable col­lamer lens, also known as ICL.

In this pro­ce­dure, a flex­i­ble soft­gel lens com­posed of col­la­gen and poly­mer is im­planted in the eye. It func­tions sim­i­lar to con­tact lenses in im­prov­ing vi­sion and is main­te­nance-free.

“The ICL pro­ce­dure is ideal for pa­tients with se­vere near-sight­ed­ness,” says Jør­gensen. “An ad­van­tage of the pro­ce­dure is that un­like laser surgery, it re­quires no re­moval of the eye’s corneal tis­sue and still pro­duces ex­cel­lent re­sults.”

Mean­while, as 80 per­cent of the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion suf­fers from some kind of vi­sion im­pair­ment, EuroEyes is fo­cus­ing on ex­pan­sion plans to bet­ter serve pa­tients na­tion­wide, Jør­gensen says.

Since many cur­rent pa­tients travel to Shang­hai from Bei­jing, EuroEyes will launch a Bei­jing clinic early next year. Later in 2014, it plans to open clin­ics in Hangzhou and Shen­zhen.

“The China mar­ket is ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing for us,” Jør­gensen says. Con­tact the writer at matthew.fulco@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Mem­ber of the EuroEyes staff out­lines op­tions to a pa­tient at its Shang­hai clinic.

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