Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve and can cause vision loss and blindness. Medicines in the form of eyedrops or pills can be used to treat glaucoma. Another option is laser trabeculoplasty which helps drain fluid from the eye. Conventional surgery also creates a new opening in the eye for fluid to leave. Both surgical options are invasive and prone to complications. With the amount of glaucoma cases expecting to more than double by 2050, a minimally-invasive treatment couldn’t come soon enough.
The University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center used a tiny tube that was permanently implanted in the eye to preserve treatment for glaucoma treatment.
The Allergan Xen gel stent that was used creates an opening between the inside and outer layers of the eye to drain fluid and reduce pressure in the eye. The stent is made of a soft and permanent gelatin material that is 6mm long and the width of human hair. Doctors are able to inject the stent using a preloaded injector through small, corneal incisions that can self-heal.
The Kellogg Eye Center is one of the first eye centers in the U.S. to use Allergan’s gel stent as a treatment after it was proven to be safe in clinical trials.
“Overall, this is a potentially safer alternative to traditional glaucoma filtration surgery,” said Manjool Shah, Kellogg glaucoma specialist, in a press release. “But with any implant, there is a theoretical risk of implant exposure.”
The Xen gel stent was approved by the FDA in November 2016 and is designed for minimally-invasive to help treat mild to moderate glaucoma. Close to a dozen of the stents have been implanted at Kellogg and the center expects more to be done in the future.
“Choosing the right candidates is a clinical decision based on a number of factors, including the type and severity of glaucoma as well as previous surgical history,” said Shah, who is also a clinical instructor in the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Michigan. “Minimally-invasive glaucoma surgery procedures are generally faster than trabulectomy and tube shunt surgeries, and shortened surgical and recovery times can be very important to patients.”