Dr. Rani Al karmi recently became the first Canadian ophthalmologist to perform a new procedure called iStent inject. The surgery was performed on two patients at the Glace Bay Hospital eye clinic in Cape Breton. “I’m happy to say that it was smooth sailing with those two and we’re looking forward to having more cases in September,” said Al karmi, who received his training in Ottawa, and has been practicing in Cape Breton since 2009.
Glaucoma is an incredibly common condition that can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve, which eventually leads to blindness. The risk of glaucoma comes from the increased fluid pressure within the eye, as the small organs that are responsible for draining the fluid fail to function normally.
Prior to the development of the iStent injection procedure, glaucoma patients have had limited treatment options available to them, including medicated eye drops, laser therapy, or an incisional surgery called trabeculectomy.
Of those treatments, the eye drops are by far the most commonly used, but have several critical flaws, according to Al karimi. First, they have negative side effects, which then leads to the next flaw, people don’t use them as prescribed. Lastly, they can be very costly, as they are used repeatedly and indefinitely.
The iStent injection is different, as it is based on the surgical insertion of a very tiny stent into the eye, which creates a permanent channel through which the fluid within the eye can flow. This solves the issue of the clogged drainage system, allowing the natural balance of interocular pressure to occur. This means that once the procedure is finished, the patient will no longer need to keep up with scheduled daily uses of medication.
“Peer-reviewed studies have shown that in more than 70 per cent of cases (using the iStent inject) that you are able to either completely stop the medication or you are at least reducing the amount of medication that is being used,” said Al karmi.