Tue, Jul 10, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Heavy myopia may be cured with new laser eye surgery

CORRECTIVE SURGERYCosting nearly twice as much as conventional LASIK surgery, intraLASIK may be the only option for some cases of myopia

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Myopic patients who wish to improve their vision but are deemed unsuitable for conventional eye surgery can now seek another surgical procedure, an eye doctor said yesterday.

Despite being nearly twice as expensive as laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) surgery, Ting Min-feng (丁民峰), an ophthalmologist, said he had performed "hundreds" of procedures since importing the first equipment at a cost of NT$20 million (US$610,000).

"For some, it is the only option," Ting said.

accuracy

"With conventional LASIK surgery, the corneal layer is peeled back using a blade before the laser is used to vaporize part of the corneal tissue," Ting said. "The use of femtosecond lasers accomplishes the same task with far greater accuracy."

In the procedure, known as intraLASIK, a tiny bubble of water and carbon dioxide is created when an intense but short burst of laser is directed at a specific point. When many of those bubbles connect in a sheet at a pre-determined depth, a flap is created which could then be lifted for the procedure to continue.

The Department of Health approved the procedure in August last year. Only five machines have been imported into the country so far.

For those with heavy myopia wishing to improve their condition through surgery, it may be the only option.

too thin

"A percentage, perhaps three in 10, of those with myopia so heavy they have to wear `coke bottle' glasses cannot be treated with conventional LASIK because their cornea is too thin," Ting said.

"But given [intraLASIK's] greater accuracy, we can operate on nine out of 10 heavily myopic patients, " Ting said.

The cost of an intraLASIK procedure depends on the individual, varying from NT$80,000 to NT$100,000 while conventional LASIK only costs NT$30,000 to NT$40,000.

"We don't know if the cost is going to come down -- - that depends on the manufacturers of the machines," Ting said.

Although the laser cutting procedure provides greater accuracy, Ting warns that patients still have to be informed of the risks.

"Patients want operations that are 100 percent safe, but there's always a risk of imperfections," Ting said.

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