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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 August, 2004, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Tooth used to save woman's sight
Image of Judith Smith and her grandchild
Judith can see colours and shapes
A blind woman can see again thanks to UK surgeons who used her own teeth to restore her vision.

Judith Smith, 42, who has been blind for more nearly 15 years, had a revolutionary operation called osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis or OOKP.

She travelled from her home in Teesside to Sussex Eye Hospital, Brighton, which is pioneering the procedure.

It is an option for people with corneal blindness which has not been amenable to conventional eye surgery.

The procedure

The surgery takes part in two stages, each taking around six hours and carried out about six months apart.

Two surgeons, an eye surgeon and a maxillo-facial surgeon, work together to repair the damaged eye.

During the first stage, the superficial scar tissue over the damaged cornea is removed and the whole surface is then covered with a patch of tissue taken from the inside of the patient's cheek.

This will create a new surface for the eye.

The surgeons then remove one of the patient's teeth, usually a canine, together with a small block of jawbone.

The treatment was brilliant. I still can't believe that is has happened to me
Mrs Smith

This is used to fashion a rectangular plate with a hole drilled through the middle.

A small synthetic tube is inserted into this hole and the whole thing, now called an OOKP lamina, is placed under the muscle of the lower eyelid for two to four months to allow surrounding tissue to grow into the substance of this implant.

During the second stage, the cheek tissue covering the eye's surface is raised and a hole is made through the centre of the scarred cornea.

The surgeons then remove the iris, the lens and the jelly of the eye that lie behind the cornea.

They extract the OOKP lamina that they had implanted and then insert it into the hole they have made in the cornea and sew it firmly in place.

The cheek tissue is lowered back down to cover the eye again.

About 80% of people who have this surgery achieve an improvement of their vision, according to he eye surgeon who carried out the procedure, Mr Christopher Liu.

Mrs Smith said she felt blessed to be given back her sight.

"The treatment was brilliant. I still can't believe that is has happened to me."

She said her vision was still a bit hazy, but she can make out shapes and colours and, for the first time, is able to see the faces of her grandchildren.

"When I first saw them I wept with joy and told them how beautiful they are," she said.

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