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Topics / MEDICINE : Firm's New Device May Ease Cataract Surgery

August 04, 1994|DEBORAH SULLIVAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A laser device that could allow for safer, simpler cataract surgery may be on the market by 1996, a Claremont medical equipment company announced.

The probe would enable eye surgeons to remove the cataract through a smaller incision, with less risk of complications than is possible with current equipment, the company claims.

IOLAB Corp., a Johnson & Johnson company, announced that a patent for the device was awarded to Jack Dodick, chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital. Dodick developed the laser, to which IOLAB holds marketing rights, after 30 years of cataract surgery.

"I focused my thoughts on how the technique could be made safer and easier . . . by removing (the cataract) through a smaller wound," the doctor said.

He created a laser probe that is smaller and lighter than current devices that use ultrasound to break up the opaque, hardened lens for removal from the eye. It requires an incision of only 2.4 millimeters compared with 3.0 to 3.2. A plastic lens is then inserted.

Unlike the current probe, which vibrates more than 54,000 times per second, a laser beam strikes a titanium target on the wand tip, emitting shock waves that break up the lens. Then an aspirator sucks up the shattered fragments.

Dodick said the new device, which destroys and aspirates cataracts, could eventually be used for surgery on the brain, herniated discs, injured joints and even to clear clogged arteries.

Dodick has used the device to remove cataracts from seven patients--all successfully.

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