January 22, 2010

Technique lowers glaucoma’s elevated eye pressure

Technique lowers glaucoma’s elevated eye pressure

Ophthalmologists have long been searching for new surgical methods to lower the intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients.

Traditionally, patients undergo a trabeculectomy, a surgical procedure to reduce the elevated eye pressure. This involves the removal of a portion of the trabecular meshwork, which serves as the drainage system for the eye.

Now, a minimally invasive alternative, called canaloplasty, is available at

Jeffrey Kammer, M.D.

Jeffrey Kammer, M.D.

Rachel Kuchtey, M.D., Ph.D.

Rachel Kuchtey, M.D., Ph.D.

“Trabeculectomy has been, and continues to be, the gold standard for surgical treatment,” said Kammer. “Despite the excellent intraocular pressure-lowering efficacy of trabeculectomy, it still carries with it the risk of infection, which can be visually devastating.

“This newest procedure is like angioplasty for the eye,” Kammer said. “The canal has collapsed and we are able to re-establish the integrity of it. Canaloplasty has an excellent ability to lower the intraocular pressure while minimizing the risk of infection. This new surgical method offers both patient and surgeon a better way of treating glaucoma.”

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the country. More than 50 percent of those affected by the disease are unaware they have it. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve, often triggered by elevated eye pressure.

Although there are treatments, there is no cure.

Kammer and Kuchtey have performed the procedure on about 20 patients, with excellent outcomes.

In canaloplasty a flexible micro-catheter is inserted into the Schlemm's Canal to inject a gel that opens the collapsed area.

In addition, the surgeon inserts a mico-suture in the canal to ensure it remains open, which will allow for proper draining of the fluid in the eye.

Candidates for this particular procedure include those with mild to moderate glaucoma, those at high risk of complications from trabeculectomy and those who are using multiple medications in an effort to lower their intraocular pressure.

Kammer applauds canaloplasty for its shorter recovery times and lower complication rates.

“Our goal with this kind of treatment is to provide more options so that we can tailor surgery to a patient's needs,” Kammer said.