A major attraction for ophthalmologists at Drishti-2012, the ongoing annual conference organised by Kerala Society of Ophthalmic Surgeons (KSOS), is the Phacoemulsification surgery wet labs set up at the venue.
Phacoemulsification (Phaco) is a type of cataract surgery where the affected eye lens is emulsified. In the phaco wet labs set up at the venue, individual doctors did trial surgeries on experimental eye models made of wax. All the delegates at the conference will get to try their hand at it.
For Dr Babu Thomas from the Government Hospital Chalakudy, who tried out the machine for the first time, it was a learning process where he came to terms with this latest technique of cataract removal.
“We are still using conventional methods where manual extraction is done,” he said. “I will need some more practice with this before I can try it out on a patient.”
Dr Gopal R, consultant ophthalmologist at Kerala Institute of Medical Services (KIMS), who has been using this technique since it first came about about two years ago, said, “Contrary to popular belief, it is not a laser surgery but an ultrasound.”
Here, an ultrasonic handpiece with a metal tip is inserted through the cornea. The tip vibrates at a frequency of 40,000 Hertz. “This will generate mechanical disruption, heat and microexplosions which will pulverise the cataract,” explained Gopal, pointing at the TV screen, where the process could be seen live as the demonstration was being carried out.
Next, a second probe, a fine instrument called ‘chopper’, is inserted to cause fragmentation to facilitate the emulsification. “This is called ‘trenching’ - just imagine somebody creating deep pits in an ‘idli,’” said Gopal. Finally, after the emulsification of the lens nucleus and cortical material, another probe will vacuum out the remaining material.
A Phaco surgery would cost between Rs 18,000 and Rs 25,000 depending on the replacement lens used. Phaco has been around for about 15 years, according to him. But earlier the process was done through the sclera, outer layer of the eye, and not cornea. “This meant that after surgery more powerful glasses were needed,” he said.
The machine, according to the company representative, costs Rs 16 lakh.