In the 25 years I have been operating, retinal surgery has come a long way, although we certainly have long strides ahead of us. We are, however, at a point which our current surgical tools provide us the ability to preserve vision more efficiently, induce less inflammation and get our patients functioning in their daily lives more quickly.
A typical retina surgery 25 years ago would result in much larger incisions in the skin layers of the eyes as well as the creation of ports (holes) used to enter and operate on the eye. Today, for most cases, the operating hole is as small as a 27gauge needle (.016 inches) through which we can do all of our surgeries. These holes are also self-sealing so in most cases, patients don’t require sutures to close the wound. Additionally, the efficiency of the machines we have designed have allowed us to spend 10-15 minutes inside the eye operating compared to the 2-3 hours per case previously. This not only leads to a greater likely-hood of vision improvement in the eye and also induces less inflammation, thus getting the patient functioning better in a shorter amount of time.
In addition to traditional surgical procedures, we now have the surgical skills and equipment to begin performing stem cell transplants in the appropriate clinical trial setting. We have hopes of reversing the permanent damage that our patients have experienced with various diseases. The future for our retina patients is very bright. If these stem cell trials lead to large scale implementation of regenerative medicine (regrowing parts of the retina), we think those few patients that we are currently not able to help recover their vision may have hoped to do so in the future. We continue to innovate and dream big on behalf of our patients. Regenerative medicine and the innovative use of surgical tools is the next big frontier for retina.