Sight saver

A same-day procedure for glaucoma is now available locally to patients who are undergoing cataract surgery.

The iStent is a tiny titanium device implanted in the eye that decreases the eye pressure of patients with open-angle glaucoma.

It is being offered as a minimally-invasive procedure at the Eye Center of Central Pa. in Allenwood.

“There’s a lot of buzz about it,” said Bob Lamont, a registered nurse and CEO of the Eye Center. “We wanted to bring it to central Pennsylvania. Our patients deserve it.”

Lamont called the iStent the smallest medical device ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

About 5 percent of cataract patients are eligible for the procedure.

The iStent is implanted inside the eye during cataract surgery for patients with mild to moderate glaucoma.

Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness, is a disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss.

Open angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma, affects about 3 million Americans. It happens when the eye’s drainage canals gradually become clogged, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

The inner eye pressure rises because the correct amount of fluid can’t drain from the eye. With open-angle glaucoma, the entrances to the drainage canals are clear and should be working correctly.

The clogging problem occurs further inside the drainage canals.

Dr. Scott Hartzell, an ophthalmologist who performs the surgery at the Eye Center, likens it to a clogged pipe.

The iStent creates a permanent drain by providing a path for fluid to flow between the chamber of the front of the eye to the channel directing fluid out of the eye.

“Is this going to cure severe glaucoma?” Hartzell said. “No.”

So far, Hartzell has done a half-dozen or so of the procedures.

Patients are awake during the surgery but are put under local anesthesia.

The eye is dilated for the procedure.

Patients usually can resume their normal activities within a day following surgery but are discouraged from driving immediately after the procedure.

“Everybody needs a ride home,” Lamont said.

With the large elderly population of the area, Eye Center officials say many of the procedures could well be performed in coming years.

“We see a lot of people who need our help,” Lamont said.

Most people have no symptoms or early warning signs of glaucoma.

If not diagnosed and treated, open-angle glaucoma can cause a gradual loss of vision.

It develops slowly and sometimes without noticeable sight loss for many years.

Glaucoma usually responds well to medication, especially if caught early and treated.