Kolkata; September 5, 2005
Medical history was created in Kolkata on September 4 when an ophthalmologist operated on a cataract through a 700-micron incision, arguably the tiniest ever used in phaco-surgery in any part of the world. To put the size of the incision into perspective, it was as wide as the tip of a .5 mm ballpoint pen. The surgeon, Dr. Amar Agarwal, claimed the operation made India a global front-runner in the development of surgical procedures and techniques for cataract removal. The surgery marked the launch of a new technique, microphakonit.
About 300 leading ophthalmologists from all over the country watched on a giant screen as Dr. Agarwal performed the microphakonit on an aged patient with advanced cataract. An operating theatre of B.B. Eye Foundation, on Sarat Bose Road, was the venue. The operation was telecast live to the participants of a day-long workshop on eye surgery. "The surgery was a milestone in cataract removal. The technique used will set a trend. It heralds a new era in cataract surgery," opined ophthalmologist Pradeep Kumar Bakshi, who watched Dr. Agarwal perform the operation.
Dr. Agarwal, who is based in Chennai, has invented a special phaco needle for the surgery. "Larger incisions are generally used in phaco-surgery. The smallest recorded incision has so far been of 900 microns. Dr Agarwal should be lauded for improving on that. The incision is barely visible to the naked eye. The patient did not feel any discomfort after the surgery," said ophthalmologist Partha Biswas, who is also the Director of B.B. Eye Foundation.
In Kolkata and other parts of the country, micro-surgeries for removal of cataract are quite common. Incisions of about 10 mm are generally made during the operations. Phaco-surgeries using smaller incisions have also been attempted, but not of the order of 700 microns. Patients undergoing microphakonit need not stay in hospital overnight. They can walk into clinics, get their cataract removed and get back to work immediately.
However, the new technique costs 20 to 30 per cent more than conventional phaco-surgery. Microphakonit typically takes about 15 minutes. Experts expect the technique to catch on.
About 10 million people become blind in India every year. Of these people, eight million have cataract, stated Dr. Agarwal.