Safer cataract surgery with nanotechnology

Published on : 01-Jun-2006

Using nanotechonology in microsurgery, a team from NTU and The Eye Institute at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TEI@TTSH) has found a way to minimise the risk of corneal damage during cataract operations.

Researchers from NTU's School of Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) and TEI@TTSH have developed a revolutionary way to remove cataracts.

The innovative technique involves using a piezoelectric micro-actuator that utilises mechanical forces as well as ultrasonic energies to break up cataracts. This gives the surgeon more control, thus enhancing safety and surgical outcomes. It also makes it possible to remove a relatively dense cataract via a small incision.

Cataract surgery is one of the most performed surgeries in the developed world and current surgery techniques use ultrasound waves to break up cataracts in the eye, before removing the emulsified material and replacing it with an artificial lens. There is a small risk of corneal damage due to the uncontrolled heat transfer from the ultrasound waves.

The use of the piezoelectric micro-actuator minimises this risk as the force used to break up cataracts can be localised and controlled during microsurgery. 

Assoc Prof Ma Jan, Vice-Dean (Academic) at MSE, notes that the surgical instrument, besides being power-friendly and portable, combines mechanical and ultrasonic energy into a single instrument, "giving doctors who perform cataract surgery the flexibility of alternating between the two methods, depending on the density of the cataract and stage of surgery". The instrument, he adds, is particularly useful for minimally invasive surgery.

NTU has always been at the forefront of biomedical technology, with a successful track record of developing and implementing nanotechnology-based solutions. "However it is even more important to translate such R&D into products and technique that can actually be used on patients to benefit them," says Assoc Prof Ma, who co-led the research with the Dean of MSE, Prof Freddy Boey. "By coupling our expertise with TTSH's capabilities, we are able to bring to the market new clinical techniques and devices in a shorter time, thus benefiting more patients."

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