October is the time for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. I’m excited to see what new and innovative technologies will be showcased this year.
It’s a time for reflection on where we’ve come and where we will be going medically and surgically in the future. Past meetings over the last few years have given us first looks at technologies like blade-free LASIK with the Intralase, wavefront technology, iris registration, eye-tracking technology, and new types of cataract surgery systems.
Interesting topics that have been hot recently include corneal cross-linking and accommodative intraocular lens design.
Corneal cross-linking is a chemical method of creating stability of the corneal structure. The chemical process increases chemical bonds between the molecules within the cornea and stiffens it. In corneas that are weak and progressively change shape, this stiffening process can halt these pathologic structural changes.
The cornea is a major optical surface so its structure and shape are critical to your vision. Obviously, if it is irregular in shape, and worse yet progressive and unstable, your vision will suffer. Certain inherent pathologies (e.g. keratoconus) or surgery/trauma can lead to ectasia or thinning of the cornea with progressive structural shape changes. Chemical cross-linking offers a way to stabilize the shape and thus the vision in these individuals.
Accommodative intraocular lenses are a topic that I’ve discussed before. This lens design allows an artificial implanted lens to change its focal power. This functions to restore the eyes ability to read up-close as it did during a person’s youth.
Usually, these lenses are used during routine cataract surgery in elderly patients. The current accommodative lens is called the Crystalens™ by Bausch and Lomb. This lens works very well from far to intermediate distances and moderately well for small print at very near.
There are a number of other lenses in development which hopefully will have wider ranges of accommodation. Theoretically, this could completely restore the eyes’ accommodative function to that of a 20 year old person.
It appears that these lenses will not be fully developed for many years to come but it will be interesting to hear more on the concepts and designs of the future.
Any of these new topics and technologies in the field of ophthalmology on display may help us to deliver better cataract and refractive surgery outcomes in the future.