Trial examines surgery to
reverse nearsightedness

George Waring III, professor of ophthalmology in the School of Medicine, is studying an innovative new vision correction surgery that may eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses for moderately nearsighted individuals.

The surgery involves inserting a tiny, transparent ring into the cornea-the dome-shaped, clear tissue in front of the eye. The ring reshapes the cornea and corrects nearsightedness.

Waring and cornea specialist Doyle Stulting will enroll 45 patients into an FDA-regulated Phase III clinical trial investigating this technique. Emory is the first facility in the Southeast and one of only 10 centers in the country with FDA approval to participate in the trial.

"The intrastromal corneal ring is intended to correct nearsightedness by altering the curve of the cornea without operating in the central cornea zone, the critical area for clear vision," Waring said. "It is especially designed to treat patients who have -1.0 to -3.5 diopters of myopia-mild or moderate nearsightedness." An estimated 20 million adult Americans fall within this range of nearsightedness.

Even though the ring can remain permanently in the eye, a surgeon can remove it in the event a patient's eyesight changes with age. The ring has been in development for more than 10 years and was first used in nearsighted patients in 1991.

KeraVision Inc., based in Silicon Valley, Calif., makes the ring, which is composed of a polymer material that surgeons have used in the eye for more than 40 years. Results from FDA Phase II studies showed that ring implants corrected vision of 100 percent of the patients to 20/40 or better and of 54 percent to 20/20 or better. Patients undergoing the ring implant experience a rapid visual recovery and may return to normal activities quickly.

The procedure to insert the ring, which comes in different sizes depending on the amount of intended correction, takes approximately 15 minutes and is typically performed under a topical anesthetic. The surgeon makes a tiny incision in the periphery of the cornea to insert the ring. "We are especially excited about the possibility of offering a surgical procedure that is adjustable and reversible," said Stulting.

The Eye Center is the third leading center in the United States for the number of ophthalmology clinical trials and is one of the top 10 institutions in the nation for the number of eye research grants.

Those interested in participating in the the clinical trial may call (404) 250-9700 for more information.

-Lorri Preston

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