Rahul Pandit, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, examines a patient. Pandit performs a minimally invasive treatment for glaucoma using a surgical tool named a Trabectome. The procedure improves vision in certain patients who have an advanced stage of the disease.
For the more than 2.7 million Americans living with glaucoma, traditional treatment options have been limited. Houstonians diagnosed with glaucoma now have access to a promising, minimally invasive treatment, which in Houston is only available at Houston Methodist Hospital.
Glaucoma is increased fluid pressure in the eye that can damage the optic nerve and lead to permanent blindness. Some glaucoma patients are treated with eye drops, while others undergo surgery to relieve the pressure. Traditional glaucoma surgery includes cutting a small hole in the eye to allow the fluid to drain to an external chamber.
“The current glaucoma procedure permanently changes the anatomy of the eye,” said Rahul Pandit, M.D., ophthalmologist at Houston Methodist Hospital. “The Trabectome tool provides a minimally invasive option for treating glaucoma that works with the eye’s anatomy.”
Trabectome is a surgical instrument with a curved tip that allows surgeons to remove a layer of ocular tissue blocking the eye’s natural drainage ducts through a two-millimeter incision. Within a few days to a week, the accumulated fluid begins to naturally leave the eye through the cleared ducts.
Patients such as Barbara Curtis are already seeing the benefits. Since her diagnosis in 1965, Curtis had been on prescription eye drops to treat the pressure, but the drops were causing an allergic reaction in her eye that actually worsened her vision.
“Instead of continually trying to medically manage the fluid pressure, we decided to proceed with surgery to relieve the pressure on Barbara’s optic nerves and avoid any further eye damage,” said Pandit. “We chose the Trabectome technology over traditional surgery because it was a safer, more effective treatment for Barbara.”
Curtis became one of the first Houston Methodist patients to undergo the new glaucoma surgery. The procedure was first performed on her left eye.
“As soon as I woke up from surgery, I had no pain and I could see out of my left eye,” Curtis said. “I actually think the vision out of my left eye has improved since the surgery, which is something I didn’t expect to happen.”
According to Pandit, in some cases of advanced glaucoma, patients who undergo this procedure do see improvements in their vision.
“If the ocular nerve tissue is stressed but not completely dead from the high fluid pressure in the eye,” Pandit said, “some vision recovery is possible when you reduce the pressure.”
Curtis plans to undergo the same procedure on her right eye this fall. Most major medical insurance companies cover this glaucoma procedure.