Spots in your eyes Then go for the chop: How a mini-guillotine treatment beats the misery of sight blurred by floating particles
21:18 GMT, 21 July 2012
Tormented: Caroline Broadley says a 'floater' was like an oil slick in her field of vision
At first, Caroline Broadley thought that she had a fly stuck in her left eye. It was a black spot ‘a bit like an oil slick across my field of vision,’ she says.
‘When it didn’t go away I started to worry.’ /07/21/article-2177006-142825CA000005DC-59_634x433.jpg” width=”634″ height=”433″ alt=”How the mini-guillotine works” class=”blkBorder” />
Patients are able to return home the same day wearing an eye patch and their vision is restored within days.
The technique is so subtle that it usually does not require stitches or a general anaesthetic.
Niall Patton, a consultant ophthalmologist at Manchester Optegra Eye Hospital, describes the new operation as a ‘real coup for retinal surgery’.
In the past, patients suffering from floaters have been told there is little or nothing that can be done to treat the condition because surgery is too risky. But high-tech new machinery has now made it possible to cure the problem both quickly and safely.
‘The technique, which has been around for only a year or two, is a modification of the established vitrectomy procedure,’ says Mr Patton.
‘Now we use smaller incisions, and in about 80 per cent of cases there is no need for stitches so that it’s less traumatic to the eye.
‘We can even do it under local anaesthetic, depending on patient preference. This means faster operations and faster recovery. It’s the biggest development in vitreoretinal surgery in the past decade.’
Patients are able to return home the same day wearing an eye patch and their vision is restored within days
A vitrectomy uses a miniature cutter to carefully break up the solidified parts of the vitreous within the eye, which are then sucked away. At the same time, a saline solution is injected into the space that is left behind.
Although the technique has been used for years to treat an array of serious eye conditions, it was considered too risky to use on simple conditions such as floaters.
This is because larger tubes than those available now were used; sucking the gluey vitreous from the eye would sometimes pull on the delicate retina, causing it to tear.
However, in the past two years, a major advance in technology has provided finer and faster surgical instruments. It has meant the solids can be safely broken up before the sucking of the vitreous begins, reducing the chance of damage.
Only three incisions into the white of the eye are needed, each one measuring less than 1mm across.
‘The long-standing view is that you wouldn’t dream of having a vitrectomy only for floaters – the procedure was risky and would only be used in conditions that meant imminent blindness,’ says Mr Patton.
‘But with our new techniques, the success rate is more than 95 per cent in improvement of symptoms.’
Patients wear a protective patch over their eye until the following day. They must use eye drops for up to four weeks after the operation to prevent infection and reduce inflammation.
Caroline, who lives in Manchester with husband David, 30, a sales manager, underwent the procedure in February last year. She says: ‘After the operation, even though my vision was blurred, I could see that there were no floaters and I felt so relieved.
‘After a week or so my vision gradually became clearer. Now it’s incredible to see clearly again.
‘I have a couple of small faint specks in my right eye which I sometimes notice when I’m outside. But the main thing is they don’t impact on my life the way the others did. I was so anxious and worried before and now I’m happy and confident.
‘It may sound cliched but it feels as if I have the chance to enjoy life again.’
The operation costs 3,516 per eye. optegra.com