Australian team share their vision
WITH a major breakthrough in laser eye surgery being heralded globally, Melbourne- based ophthalmologist Dr Noel Alpins is travelling the world to share his vision.
Around 10 years ago, he developed a new laser surgery technique for improving the outcomes for people undergoing laser eye correction for astigmatism.
The technique relies on a complex calculation method called vector planning, and trials have been so successful that 60- year- old Dr Alpins has even treated his own daughter with his wife’s blessing.
Around one million Australians are thought to suffer from astigmatism and formerly people suffering from keratoconus, a thinning of the cornea of the eye, were deemed unsuitable for laser eye surgery. But now, thanks to Dr Alpins, those one in 80 Australians now undergo treatment and enjoy corrected vision.
This is an advance on the current laser treatments and using the new technique we are able to treat these very challenging eyes, achieve what had never been done before,’’ says Dr Alpins.
It’s a life- changing procedure,’’ according to his colleague, 42- year- old optometrist George Stamatelatos.
People who have it and become free of glasses say it’s like a dream come true. The change is instant, and they love their improved quality of lifestyle,’’ says Dr Alpins.
The enthusiastic ophthalmologic duo recently returned from Stockholm, where they presented a course on treating astigmatism for a decade. He estimates that probably 65 per cent or more of people have an astigmatism.
Dr Alpins says of his technique: ‘‘ It’s a sophisticated procedure - you just can’t send someone a piece of software and expect them to get on with it.’’
The two doctors believe that around $ 2000-$ 3000 per eye, laser treatment has become a routine and affordable procedure.
Dr Alpins explains that his technique differs from conventional laser treatment in paying attention to the shape of the cornea, leaving this part of the eye in better shape after surgery.
Sufferers of astigmatism have a condition in which the cornea is more of an oval shape than the usual round shape, leading to problems such as headaches, blurred vision, and tiredness.
As glasses and contact lenses are not always suitable solutions for this condition, the precision achieved by the vector planning allows surgeons to more exactly target the irregularity caused by astigmatism.
Vector planning has been used by the clinic since 1994, and over that period some 10,000 patients have been successfully treated.
The doctors decided not to publish until they had accumulated 10 years of patient follow- up to back up their claims.
The low re- treatment rate of two per cent over that period has impressed medical colleagues, and the results have recently made waves internationally, being featured in major industry journals.
Alpins pioneered a ground- breaking trial to investigate the effectiveness of the Vector planning laser surgery technique.
They are delighted that they are now able to assist people whose eyes had previous been deemed unsuitable for normal laser eye surgery.
To prove his technique worked in the immediate and long term, Dr Alpins financed a decade- long study into the technique which was published in a peer- reviewed journal two months ago.
Peer view is very demanding because they put the manuscript to someone very expert in the area,’’ says Dr Alpins.
However, the results and methodology spoke volumes and his articles have been published in 14 peer review journals. Since then, the world’s ocular press has been raving about the technique.
Now Dr Alpins’ and Dr Stamatelatos’ passports show the proof of their global popularity, and they are constantly being approached for international speaking engagements because the technique removes more of the astigmatism and provides a better result for patients.
While they received some initial resistance to the Vector process when they first published their results in 1993, surgeons around the world have since sat up and are taking notice.
It was obviously something so new that we had a lot of trouble getting over the threshold, but now it’s been accepted and we feel very gratified,’’ says Dr Alpins.
He has international patents on the technique and is licensing the program out to other laser surgeons world wide.
It’s certainly not painful, and people are over the moon with the visual result,’’ he says.
Dr Alpins currently runs three laser clinics in Melbourne.