(August 2011) Ophthalmologists at the Yale Eye Center are the first of a handful at university centers in the United States to use a new "gold shunt" drainage device in clinical trials for the treatment of glaucoma.
Nils Loewen, MD, examines a patient at the Yale Eye Center.
In an interview with NBC News, Nils Loewen, MD, PhD, a glaucoma and cataract surgeon, who is using the procedure only for patients with prior failed glaucoma surgeries and pressures above 24 mmHg, says the treatment is less invasive than other options that provide an outlet for fluid that builds up inside the eye. While the shunt can’t cure glaucoma, it can relieve pressure and sustain vision for patients who do not respond to medication.
Click here to watch Dr. Loewen's interview with NBC News.
“It all happens at the front part of the eye, while surgeries with older drainage implants are performed far more back,” Dr. Loewen told a reporter. “This procedure involves smaller incisions and a smaller wound, which means greater comfort for the patient."
A patient, Ron Korstep, told the reporter, “My left eye was getting weaker. I was losing vision, peripheral vision, which glaucoma tends to do. The glaucoma was getting more aggressive, so we’re trying different things to bring the pressure down.”
The shunt is made of highly purified gold, so that the body will not reject it, and is about as thick as a human hair. Because it is placed on the inside of the main eye walls and not on the outside like older devices, the patient doesn’t feel it, and it should last indefinitely, Dr. Loewen says.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world and can lead to progressive, irreversible loss of vision. Yale Eye Center is currently the only practice in New England and one of about a dozen worldwide that provide the procedure, Loewen says.
For information about participating in this or other clinical trials in opthalmology at the Yale School of Medicine, call Jennifer Dupont at 203-785-6150 or Bonnie Dunlap at 203-785-2062.