Pioneering new glaucoma treatment rolled out

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust (ESNEFT) has become the first in the country to offer pioneering new glaucoma surgery which could stop patients from going blind.

The minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MiGS) sees surgeons implant a tiny strip of sponge, called a MINIject, into the corner of the eye (known as the irido-corneal drainage angle). This soaks away the excess fluids that cause elevated eye (intra-ocular) pressure, in turn preventing further sight loss from glaucoma.

The first operations in the UK have taken place at ESNEFT, where the procedure has been carried out on 12 patients since mid-March. Each surgery took just 15 to 20 minutes to complete, with the patient recovering quickly and able to return to driving and even swimming with a week.

“We are delighted to be at the forefront of this pioneering new treatment,” said ESNEFT consultant eye surgeon Chrys Dimitriou, who carried out the surgeries. “It could make a real difference to hundreds of patients every year by helping to prevent further sight loss and reducing their reliance on eye drops, which can cause red, dry or itchy eyes.

“Glaucoma is a debilitating condition which affects more than half a million people in the UK. It is primarily caused when the eye fails to drain excess fluid, which in turn leads to elevated pressure which damages the optic nerve. Although the condition is irreversible, this fantastic treatment can stop it or delay it from progressing and help to prevent the patient from going blind, which in turn has a huge impact on their quality of life.”

Glaucoma commonly develops as people get older, while high blood pressure, genetics and cardiovascular instability are also risk factors.

The most common type is primary open angle glaucoma, which is initially treated with eye drops. As the condition progresses, laser surgery can be used to widen the natural channels which drain fluid from the eye, although the benefits of this treatment can reduce over time.

In these cases, patients would need to have an artificial reservoir created to collect the excess fluid during traditional surgery, which can have a long recovery of up to four months and lead to side effects such as gritty eyes.

“As our population continues to age, the number of people living with glaucoma is set to increase in the coming years,” added Mr Dimitriou. “The introduction of MINIject will allow us to offer these individuals safe, effective treatment which has a long-lasting effect and will help prevent their sight loss from progressing further.”

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