Laser Surgery For Cataract Removal
03 Mar, 2011 - 05:54am
Millions of elderly people undergo cataract surgery, a manual procedure, each year to get rid of their cataract. A recent research suggests that laser treatment would be a safer option for cataract removal in these individuals. The research comes from the scientists of Stanford University and the Dominican Republic and was funded by the OptiMedica Corp. which provided the precision laser system used in the study. Science Translational Medicine published this research recently in its journal.
Cataract removal is one of the most common types of surgery performed in most parts of the world. At least one-third of the people are likely to have the surgery at any point during their lifetime. Although there have been enough advances in the surgical technique but some of the critical steps such as making a cut is still done manually. Therefore the success of the procedure largely depends upon how skillful and experienced the doctor is.
With the aim to find out if a specially designed precision laser system could improve the procedure by replacing the manual steps, the researchers developed an equipment for the purpose. This equipment was first tested on pigs and then rabbits to test if the laser would have any destructive effects on the retinal cells of the human eye.
Once the equipment was tested on animals and refined for human use, the researchers recruited 50 cataract patients to find out if the technique is safe for humans. Vision improvement was also compared between 29 of these patients who went under this new technique and 30 patients who used the manual technique for making the cuts. Out of all the patients 60% of them were women whereas 40% were men and all aged between 50 and 80.
The researchers noted that the gain in visual acuity was 4.3 in case of laser techniques whereas in the manually used technique it was 3.5. The better results with the laser technique was ignored as it was within the standard error for the analysis. Another important finding was that the laser technique allowed the cuts to be more precise.
The research has successfully shown that the laser procedure is more accurate when it comes to making the cuts during the cataract surgery and also the vision restoration is comparable to the manual surgical procedure. However there are certain safety issues regarding the retina damage due to the heat generated by the laser beams specially after repetitive usage. The heat is below the damage threshold but needs to be tested carefully before it is offered as an alternative treatment for cataract removal.
There is no doubt that the technique is quite innovative with the ability to make precise cuts during the surgery make it a promising alternative treatment method for cataract. With time we would probably see the laser technique being used in cataract surgeries on a wider scale.