As many as three and a half million Americans will have cataract surgery this year. Most of the time, surgery fixes the problem, but for three percent of the patients there is a surgical side effect that does not go away on its own. For those patients, eye surgeons at Washington University in St. Louis say they've devised a new way to restore clear vision.
Thirty-nine-year-old Sarah Hickey is mom to two active little guys. She has no time right now to slow down. Eye trouble was the last thing she expected.
“Six or seven years ago I noticed that I was having a lot of trouble driving at night,” Sarah said.
Doctors diagnosed her with cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye. Sarah opted for surgery to remove them, but within a few days she noticed a problem in one of them.
“I almost immediately had a shadow that developed on the lower corner of my eye,” she said.
Arsham Sheybani, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said this side effect goes away for most patients, but not all.
Dr. Sheybani explained, “The way the light bends there casts a shadow on the retina, but then patients perceive this as a crescent shadow toward the side.”
New glasses didn’t help Sarah. Neither did a repositioning of the lens. That’s when Dr. Sheybani devised a new procedure, he describes as an optic truncation.
Using tiny instruments, Dr. Sheybani lifted the lens up.
“With very, very small scissors we cut the part of the lens that I thought was causing the light to bend abnormally,” detailed Sheybani.
Then surgeons put Sarah’s lens back into place. The entire procedure took ten minutes. Sarah said, “When we took the patch off the next day, immediately there was no shadow.”
Dr. Sheybani said he and his colleagues performed the shaving procedure over a year ago and Sarah has had no problem with her lens since that time; the shadow has not come back.