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New eye surgery shortens recovery

14 October 08 11:58 GMT
by Elin Gwilym
BBC Wales health correspondent

A Swansea eye surgeon is using a new technique which improves eyesight and drastically reduces recovery times.

About 2,000 patients in the UK will have their sight restored annually through a corneal transplant.

It involves removing the central part of the cornea which is replaced with a cornea from a donor.

Mohammed Muhtaseb is using a corneal graft technique which allows fewer incisions, and cuts recovery time from nearly two years to a couple of months.

The cornea is like a lens and if it is not clear, it can block light from entering the eye.

People could suffer this lack of clarity as a result of scarring from infection or inflammation or an inherited condition or because of an injury after an accident

Vision before having the surgery is often described by patients as like looking through a murky window.

Corneal graft surgery is nothing new. For a full thickness graft, a circular piece of the cornea is removed and replaced with a donor cornea which is then stitched into place.

But now, Mr Muhtaseb is carrying out a procedure called Descemet's Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty, which sees only the innermost layer of the cornea being grafted.

"If there is only a problem in its inner layer, it may be possible to replace just that part of the cornea, leaving the patient's normal and healthy tissue in place," said Mr Muhtaseb, a Singleton-based consultant ophthalmologist.

The technique means only two or three tiny key-hole incisions are made in the cornea, with the unhealthy section removed using special instruments and the donor cornea inserted through the opening.

"By only making small openings it means fewer stitches are used after the operation, reducing the chances of affecting the person's vision," he added.

"Also the healing time will be reduced because there are fewer stitches in the eye and less corneal tissue has been replaced - this also reduces complications after the operation."

Mr Muhtaseb has already successfully completed six operations at Swansea.

Alan Matthews, 67, who sufferers from a condition called fuchs corneal dystrophy, was the first to benefit and is already literally seeing the benefits.

"I'd had blurred vision in my left eye for a couple of years," Mr Matthews said.

"Mr Muhtaseb told me about the technique to repair my cornea and I decided to give it a try.

"Within a week I was seeing OK and now I can drive without my glasses again - it's made a big difference."

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