A LEADING Gold Coast surgeon has restored the eyesight of two patients who have been blind for decades after stitching a tooth into the front of their eye.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon Shannon Webber from the Pindara Private Hospital and Ophthalmologist Dr Greg Moloney recently performed the Australian-first surgery on two patients at the Sydney Eye Hospital.
The revolutionary two-stage procedure, formally called Osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis (OOKP), is used to restore the vision of those who are blind due to scarring of the cornea from a burn, auto-immune disease or splash injury.
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“The first stage involves a tissue graft being harvested from inside the patient’s cheek and securing it to the muscles that move the eye,” Dr Webber said.
“At the same time, a tooth is then delicately removed, cut down to size and contoured before drilling a fine hole through the centre of the tooth – allowing a small optical cylinder to be cemented into place.
“The tooth is then placed in pocket of the opposite cheek, where tissue gradually grows around it.”
In the final stage of surgery, a few months later when the tooth has grown tissue and developed a blood supply, it is then transplanted into the front of the eye.
“This allows light in and patients to get their vision back,” Dr Webber said.
Just days after the ground-breaking surgery, both patients who collectively have been blind for more than 50 years, were reading a newspaper without any assistance.
“A few days after the surgery, both patients had excellent vision after being blind for decades, and with the aid of some glasses, both were reading the newspaper with no assistance,” Dr Webber said.
Patient John Ings said that the surgery has provided such an improvement that he can now get around in his day-to-day life without glasses.
“You take your sight for granted and you’ve got to lose it and then regain it, I think, to really appreciate it,” Mr Ings said.
Whilst the avant-garde procedure had been performed overseas previously, Dr Webber and Dr Moloney modified the operation by creating better blood supply to the eye, using the patient’s own scalp tissue – a world first.
“This prevents the bone dissolving around the tooth – reducing the failure rate of the surgery further.”
A segment on the revolutionary operation recently aired on 60 Minutes.