BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. Now there's a brand new treatment for those with glaucoma. It's a micro-stent, called the iStent, and it was tested right here in the Twin Cities.
Robert Poirer, a retired ophthalmologist, has glaucoma which can lead to blindness due to increased pressure in the eye. Eye drops from two medications reduced his pressure only so much. So when he heard about the iStent, he made sure he was one of the first in line.
Poirier said, "As a retired MD, this has been the most eye opening experience that I've ever had."
Dr. Thomas Samuelson with Minnesota Eye Consultants was the primary investigator on the FDA trial for the tiny one-millimeter iStent, which drains fluid from the eye to lower pressure.
Samuelson said, "These new stents are completely novel. There has not been anything like them in the past."
He says it is safer than getting traditional glaucoma surgery because the iStent is implanted during cataract surgery.
Samuelson explained, "The new stents allow us to do it through a 1.5 millimeter incision through the cornea, which is a very safe incision. It is the same incision for cataract surgery. We place this one millimeter stent in the eye's natural drainage channel and it's incredibly safe."
Poirier said his results are perfect. He said, "My eye pressures are preferably normal so, I mean, to me it's an absolute miracle."
Poirier has gone from using two medications to one.
Dr. Samuelson says some patients no longer require medication at all.
Traditionally, glaucoma surgery was only done for advanced cases.
With the iStent, Samuelson said, "For the first time we have safe surgeries that can be used earlier in the disease."
Glaucoma is not curable so this new micro stent will not reverse progression of the disease. However, it can slow or stall progression.
Dr. Samuelson says the new procedure is now paid for by Medicare.
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