Ophthalmologists, ophthalmology trainees and other medical officers at Hospital Langkawi, Kedah watch a live video of Dr Takayuki Akahoshi performing the “phaco prechop” technique .

INNOVATIVE ophthalmologist Dr Takayuki Akahoshi’s recent visit to Malaysia has provided an excellent opportunity to boost teaching and learning in the country as well as enhance continuing professional development in the field.

During his eight-day visit, the Mitsui Memorial Hospital director of ophthalmology, who also treated Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2015, shared his expertise in cataract surgery which benefited ophthalmologists, ophthalmology trainees and other medical officers here.

He developed the “phaco prechop” technique, which allows a 6mm optic lens to be implanted through a 1.8mm-small incision, and gives no risk of endophthalmitis and quick rehabilitation of vision.

The surgical time was remarkably reduced to less than four minutes on average, or one minute and 29 seconds being the fastest on record.

He can perform 8,000 surgeries per year: 5,000 at Mitsui and another 3,000 at a private clinic owned by his friend.

Cataract surgery is compulsory as part of specialist training in ophthalmology.

“Cataract is the number one cause of blindness in the world, but it is curable. People often become blind simply because they do not have access to treatment.

“It is important to get early treatment for cataracts. Procedures become more complicated if surgeries are delayed.

“I want to share expertise with more doctors so that more patients can be treated, thus increasing the productivity of a country,” said Dr Akahoshi in a Press conference held at Cruise Tasik Putrajaya.

Also present at the event were Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.

Organised by Education Malaysia Global Services in collaboration with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and the Ministry of Health, the itinerary included community service programmes at UKM Medical Center (UKMMC), Kuala Lumpur; Hospital Langkawi, Kedah; and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Sabah.

These programmes involved skills transfer which will benefit local specialists and specialist trainees in the field. Dr Akahoshi also offered free treatment using his techniques.

He also delivered lectures at the National Cataract Surgery Symposium 2019 at UKMMC, which will boost teaching and research at the nation’s teaching hospitals and universities, thus further improving the quality of its education offerings, especially in medicine and medical sciences.

Meanwhile, Dr Dzulkefly said the ministry is recruiting local trainers to study the techniques introduced by Dr Akahoshi.

The total number of cataract surgeries from 2007 to 2017 is 500,000. As of October 2018, the National Cataract Center performed 14,807 operations, while 10,699 people underwent cataract surgery elsewhere.

According to the National Eye Survey in 2014, the estimated patients with cataracts numbered 27,230.

Currently three public universities — UKM, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia — offer courses and training in ophthalmology.

Today, the Malaysian Society of Ophthalmology has 606 members and with the right training programmes in place, more will have the honour to put their names on the register.

On top of that, Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital provides public education and professional care in this field.

Under the hospital, the National Eye Bank was set up to help with the procurement of eye donors, while the National Institute of Ophthalmic Sciences provides training and research programmes.