A PIONEERING device which could help save people’s sight is being trialled at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Surgeons at the London hospital are using a special blade, known as the Kahook dual blade (KBD), to drain fluid from the eye in patients with glaucoma, a common age-related condition which can lead to blindness and affects about half a million people in England.

Glaucoma usually occurs when fluid in the eye cannot drain properly and increases pressure inside the eye, putting pressure on the optic nerve which is responsible for sight.

Mr Saurabh Goyal, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at St Thomas’ who is leading the small clinical trial with fellow consultant ophthalmic surgeon Mr Sheng Lim, said it was early days but the new blade appeared to be an exciting development in the treatment of glaucoma.

“The condition causes irreversible blindness so it’s vital to treat it early and prevent any further damage,” Mr Goyal said.

“Traditional glaucoma surgery involves creating a hole in the eye to drain the fluid, whereas the new treatment utilises the natural drains of the eye. This has advantages because there is less risk of infection, bleeding, loss of sight and the pressure in the eye falling too low than with conventional surgery,” he said.

Asteroulla Antoniou, a 76-year-old grandmother who was diagnosed with glaucoma about 25 years ago, was the first to join the trial, after eye drops and laser surgery had not reduced the pressure in her eyes enough previously.

Asteroulla had the KBD procedure on her left eye in January and a few weeks later tests showed that the pressure in her eye had halved and three times as much fluid was draining from it.

“It was unbelievable when Mr Goyal showed me how much fluid had drained from my eye – it was really something to see,” Asteroulla said.

Mr Goyal said it was hoped that the KBD procedure would become an effective alternative for patients but more research was needed to assess the longer-term effects of the device.

Picture caption: Asteroulla Antoniou with Mr Saurabh Goyal. Source: Guys and St Thomas’ NHS website