Surgeons at the Cathedral Eye Clinic in Belfast, Ireland, have performed groundbreaking eye surgery to save the sight of a woman suffering from glaucoma. Mary McCall, 66, from Belfast, is the first person in Britain and Ireland to receive this type of surgery.
A tiny device called an iStent, which is the smallest medical device ever to be implanted into the human body, was used to halt the progression of McCall's glaucoma.
The iStent, not to be confused with some kind of Apple device, has already been hailed as the “millimeter miracle.” It is made from titanium, weighs only 60 micrograms and is just one millimeter long. It is the first ever implant used in the treatment of glaucoma.
The implant procedure is known as trabecular micro-bypass glaucoma stint surgery. It is a minimally invasive treatment and took surgeons just 20 minutes to complete.
In fact, McCall and her surgeons were so pleased by the positive outcome of her surgery that they are already planning a second surgery on her other eye. According to the mother of six who was slowly losing the sight in both her eyes, it was as if “somebody switched on a light!”
“This is a massive step forward for the treatment of glaucoma and has potential to help so many people, said Mr. Colin Willoughby, consultant at the Cathedral Eye Clinic, who announced the surgery's success during National Glaucoma Week. “We have now had time to assess Mrs. McCall and we are delighted with the results.”
Glaucoma creates pressure inside the eye which causes damage to the optic nerve and retina. The iStent is used to drain fluid away from the back of the eye which is responsible for causing glaucoma.
The surgery was relatively inexpensive, costing £1,000 (approximately $1,461) if performed alongside other procedures such as cataract removal.
Glaucoma effects approximately four million Americans, of which only 50 percent are aware that they even have the disease. The first symptoms can often be the loss of sight, which usually ends up affecting both eyes. There is no cure for this progressive and debilitating disease and the current treatment is usually medicated eye drops.
According to the World Health Organization glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.
There is currently no cure for glaucoma but the iStent implant is able to halt its progression. The iStent is available in Britain and select countries throughout Europe and has recently been approved for use in Canada.