Advanced Eye-Surgery Techniques Used Here

March 4, 2005

COSTA Rica leads Central America incataract removal and vision-correctiontechnology, a distinction secured with theaddition of the latest surgical machineryavailable worldwide to two private clinicsin the Central Valley.Since late last year, the Oftalmejía ophthalmologyclinics in San José and inCartago, east of San José, have employedthe latest technology for cataract and othertypes of eye surgeries, called the InfinitiVision System by Alcon.Combined with another innovation, aninjectable artificial lens, resembling a permanentcontact lens, for cataract patientsand some people who suffer from presbyopia,age-related blurred vision of nearbyobjects, reading glasses could be a thing ofthe past.“WE believe it’s a great advance intechnology and the patients who haveundergone treatment are very satisfied,”said Dr. Carlos Mejía, director of the clinics.“In expert hands, it’s a simple procedure.”The surgery requires only local anesthesiaand usually lasts less than 15 minutes,Mejía said.About 1,000 cataract surgeries are performedin Costa Rica every year at privateclinics and in the public hospitals,Oftalmejía said in a statement, and thosepatients must use glasses afterward. Thesurgical equipment has eliminated thatneed, according to the clinic.MEJÍA has led Costa Rica in the useof the latest cataract surgical techniques forthe past two decades. He purchased hisnew equipment in late 2004, making CostaRica the only Central American country tooffer such technology to patients.Publio Muñoz, Alcon’s Central Americanmarketing manager, said only a handfulof such equipment is available in SouthAmerica, two are in Mexico, and proposalshave been made for the purchase of amachine in Panama.The Infiniti could be described as atalking monitor on a five-foot base with atube feeding a pen-sized instrument. Theinstrument is inserted into the eye andemits one of two kinds of high-frequencysound waves or jets of water to break upcataracts, some of which are harder thanothers, according to Mejía.A cataract is the clouding of the lens,which, in healthy eyes, is clear. It is generallyassociated with aging and developsslowly and painlessly, gradually dimmingthe vision, according to the U.S. Library ofMedicine online. Most people developsome clouding of the lens after age 60.About 50% of people ages 65-74 and about70% of those 75 and older have cataracts,the library reports. In rare cases they canoccur in children or at birth, or after traumasuch as a car accident injury.ONCE the Infiniti machine breaks upthe cataract, the eye tissue is cleaned with asaline solution and the machine vacuums itout. The instrument leaves a much smallercut in the eye than the previous techniques,in which the lens was removed through anincision in the upper eye, Mejía said.After removing the lens, Mejíareplaces it with an artificial lens, also producedby Alcon, designed to allow the eyeto focus on objects both near and far,unlike other lenses that can present focusingproblems. The lens is inserted using anew technology called apodization.At Oftalmejía, the eye’s natural innerlens is measured for the correct artificiallens with a Carl Zeiss IOL Mastermachine, a pioneer in its field that takesmeasurements five times more precise thanits ancestors, according to the company’sWeb site.THE same surgical technique thatremoves cataracts can also improve visionin eyes that have become farsighted –requiring the use of glasses for reading andfocusing on nearby objects – a conditioncalled presbyopia.The condition sets in as the eye’s naturallens becomes more rigid with age, andnearly everyone will experience it, usuallyafter age 40.Several treatments that remove theneed for eyeglasses are available, includinglaser surgery, which Mejía’s clinicsoffer, and the artificial lens. Mejía removesthe natural lens using the same techniqueused to remove lenses clouded withcataracts, and replaces it with Alcon’s artificiallens.MEJÍA’S clinic also helps people witheye injuries. Through an agreement withthe government’s National InsuranceInstitute (INS), Mejía operates on victimsof traffic and job-related accidents.The cost of most operations, includingan artificial lens, varies from $1,800-$1,900 per eye. Usually, surgery is performedon both eyes, one at a time a weekapart.Patients who have insurance policiesfrom outside of Costa Rica can be reimbursedfor some eye surgeries, according tothe clinic.To contact Oftalmejía in San José call281-0825, in Cartago, 552-4343, e-mailoftalmej@racsa.co.cr, or visit the Website www.oftalmejia.com

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