Friday, October 5, 2007
Medical Reports: Eye transplant
You may not realize it but some 44,000 adults get eye transplants every year, but rarely is the operation successful in kids. That's all about to change. In this afternoon's Healthcast, Seven's Christine Cruz shows us there is now a sight-saving surgery that's helping the smallest patients.
WSVN -- Sam Clanton's a tough 3-year-old. He was born with Peter's Anomaly, a disease marked by distorted corneas that left him blind.
Yvonne Clanton: "When he opened his eyes, we saw that there was just something terribly wrong."
Searching for help, Sam's parents found doctor James Aquavella at the University of Rochester, 1,300 miles from their Tampa home.
Dr. James Aquavella: "I think there's every reason for us to give these children a chance if you possibly can."
After 40 years of research, he's giving kids that chance by restoring their sight with plastic artificial corneas.
Dr. James Aquavella: "These devices behave and provide the pristine quality of optics as good as, if not better than the normal eye."
First, doctors clear away the cloudy and diseased tissue. Then, a plastic cornea is sewn onto the eye.
Dr. James Aquavella: "That then provides a clear image that gets focused onto the back of the eye, like the image that gets focused onto the back of your digital camera."
The implant has been used in adults for a few years but was never tried in kids. Aquavella was the first in the world to try it and has treated 45 children. Nearly all have regained sight to various degrees and are doing fine.
Dr. James Aquavella: "You never know when the breakthrough is going to come through."
Just two days after Sam's surgery, he can see well enough to walk directly to this toy. It's a dramatic first.
Yvonne Clanton: "That is amazing."
Yvonne Clanton: "Just to have hope is just wonderful. It was beyond wonderful. It was really like a miracle."
Though Sam may never see 20/20, he will see the smiles on these faces and his own.
Christine Cruz: "Children have come from all over the world to get this sight-saving surgery. It helps children who have any kind of corneal damage or disease. Some of the children who were blind are now reading and in regular school classes."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
James Aquavella, MD
University of Rochester Eye Institute