NUH debuts new surgery that promises safer cataract removal

SINGAPORE - The National University Hospital (NUH) has become the first in Southeast Asia to offer cataract patients with a safer surgical procedure using the Femtosecond Laser Assisted Cataract Surgery with patented lens cubing technology.

Cataract is the clouding of the lens in the eye, and typically affects people from the age of 50. In Singapore, more than three out of four elderly patients are affected by this problem.

Due to the high incidence rate of cataracts in Singapore, cataract surgery has become one of the most commonly performed ophthalmic operations. With an ageing population and the elderly becoming more active, doctors anticipate more will opt for cataract surgery to enjoy a better quality of life, NUH said.

The conventional method requires eye surgeons to use ultrasound energy to breakdown the cloudy lens before they are removed.

This method usually reduces the number of endothelial cells in the eye. These cells are responsible for maintaining the cornea at a hydration level of no more than 80 per cent for optical transparency.

This means that people with low endothelial cell count may not be suitable for the conventional method of cataract surgery as it increases the risks of cornea decompensation, which may require cornea transplant in severe cases.

The new lens cubing technology minimises and can even eliminate the need for ultrasound energy. It cuts cataract lens into cubes as small as 0.02mm in height, which aids in precision cataract break-up and removal.

This helps in softening the cataract significantly and makes it easier to remove. This reduces endothelial cell loss which translates to better cornea health and safer surgery for patients, NUH said.

Dr Lennard Thean, Head & Senior Consultant of Cataract Services at the NUH, said: "Cataract patients with low endothelial cell counts will now be able to undergo cataract surgery without worrying about the risk of getting irreversible corneal injury.

"This allows them to achieve the lifestyle that they want, which could not have been possible in the past."

To date, eye surgeons at NUH have successfully performed the surgery for about 40 patients.

As a tertiary specialist hospital and part of an academic medical centre, NUH is also offering fellowships for ophthalmologists around the region to be trained in the procedure.

For a start, about 20 ophthalmologists will trained annually.

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