Micro-implant gives glaucoma patients new hope
Published Sunday, May 5, 2013 9:58PM EDT
A cutting edge procedure that involves implanting a tiny stent into the eye is giving glaucoma patients new hope.
Glaucoma, a degenerative eye disease caused by the build-up of pressure from excess fluid, is the second most common cause of vision loss amongst seniors in Canada, according to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
If left untreated, the disease can progress to severe blindness.
Cheryl Kemp, 66, is already blind in her left eye because of glaucoma. Kemp says she’s afraid she might suffer the same fate if the vision in her right eye continues to deteriorate.
Kemp says she has tried everything from medicated drops to laser treatment, but nothing has worked so far.
"I can only see with (my right) eye, (so) whatever it takes to save the sight is good with me," she told CTV News before undergoing a procedure that involves inserting a tiny L-shaped tube - the smallest implant ever made for the human body - that will drain the excess fluid from her eye. Kemp received three such stents.
"There is no question this is changing the paradigm of glaucoma treatment," said Dr. Ike Ahmed, an eye surgeon and chief of ophthalmology at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, who has performed approximately 2,000 eye stent implants.
"Over 70 to 75 per cent of patients are medication free with a pressure target within normal range."
According to early studies, the micro stent has been shown to stabilize eyesight in some patients for up to four years when the treatment is combined with cataract surgery.
"I feel good. I can see, I can read," Selvarani Nicholas, a glaucoma patient who had the procedure done in January, told CTV News.
Several different micro stents for use in the eye are now in development. The stents cost about $500 each.
In a study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of one of the stents now in use, researchers found that out of 239 patients with glaucoma, 68 per cent of those who had received the titanium tube in addition to cataract surgery were observed to have lower eye pressure.
The operation, which takes less than 20 minutes to perform, is reported to have minimal side effects like eye infections or blurry vision.
“There is no question this is changing the paradigm of glaucoma treatment. Already in my practice it’s being used earlier in the disease before it has a chance to lead to more advanced disease,” said Ahmed.
Some doctors, however, caution that the long-term effectiveness, and long-term side effects of this treatment are still unknown.
In a recent statement , the American Academy of Ophthalmology wrote “It is not possible to conclude whether these novel procedures are superior, equal to, or inferior to (standard glaucoma eye )surgery.”
With files from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip