A new study shows that vision can be restored to people who have suffered serious brain accidents and subsequent hemorrhaging in the eyes. Perhaps the most astonishing finding from this study is the fact that this surgery can be performed months after the patient's accident and s/he will still experience great results.
Researchers assigned to this study were from the Kresge Eye Institute at Wayne State University, the Washington University School of Medicine, and the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in India. All of the patients involved in the study experienced hemorrhaging in the eye or eyes after a motor vehicle accident. Every patient had experienced some kind of traumatic brain injury.
This study is huge for eye specialists because those who sustain brain injuries sometimes develop brain aneurysms that lead to a buildup of pressure in the skull and behind the eyes. This hemorrhaging is extremely serious because it can lead to complete blindness and, in extreme cases, death. This kind of hemorrhaging is known in medical jargon as Terson syndrome.
Doctors say that when a person has brain bleeds without Terson syndrome, mortality rate is around 10 percent. However, if Terson syndrome is present in the brain and the eyes, the mortality rate jumps up to 40 percent.
Before going in for surgery, eye doctors checked the vision of each patient. Many patients failed to see hand motions only a few centimeters from their face.
There were 20 patients in total, but doctors were able to analyze the effects of surgery on 28 eyes. Half of the patients had a surgical operation within three months of hemorrhaging, and the other half had surgery after three months.
The surgical procedure used on these patients involved the removal of the eye's vitreous cell and replacing it with a saline solution. This type of surgery is officially called a "vitrectomy." Surgeons find that a proper vitrectomy helps the eye flush out old blood and deflect light waves from directly hitting the photoreceptor cells in the retina.
The vitreous cell, sometimes called the vitreous humor , is a clear jellylike tissue right behind the eye's lens. A healthy vitreous cell will be clear enough to allow light to pass through easily.
Amazingly, doctors discovered that all of these patients, regardless of when they had the surgery done, were able to recover full vision. Before the surgeries, the average vision of the patients was 20/1290. One month after the surgery, that average went up to 20/40. Finally, at the end of a few more months, even patients that were deemed "legally blind" were able to achieve 20/20 vision.
The scientists working on this study said this finding is extremely important for the medical community. Surgeons cannot operate on a brain injury patient's eyes until their brain has been fully stabilized, which begs the question, "how long can we wait before the eye surgery becomes ineffective?" Researchers are happy to report that all of their patients, no matter when they got the vitreous humor surgery done, experienced full recovery of vision.
This full study was published in the medical journal Ophthalmology.