Surgical Procedures for Macular Degeneration
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Laser photocoagulation, used to treat a number of eye conditions, is used in some cases of wet macular degeneration. When blood vessels under the macula multiply in wet macular degeneration, they leak. This causes damage and death to the cells of the macula. Photocoagulation involves aiming a strong laser light beam onto the new blood vessels to destroy them. It is not a cure for macular degeneration, but helps prevent further vision loss. Unfortunately, the treatment itself can lead to visual loss.
The procedure is done on an outpatient basis. You will be given eye drops to dilate your pupil and numb your eye. The procedure is performed while you are seated in a chair. You will remain awake. You may feel minimal discomfort as the pulses of laser light are directed at the blood vessels. The treatment usually takes less than thirty minutes to complete. You can go home immediately following surgery. It may take several weeks before you know if the surgery has been successful. You may need additional laser treatments to manage macular degeneration and prevent further vision loss.
Photodynamic therapy is a type of laser procedure used to treat wet macular degeneration. It involves using a low-powered laser in conjunction with a light-sensitive dye. The dye will be injected into a vein in your arm and will circulate through your body. As the dye circulates through your eye, it collects in the abnormal blood vessels. Low-intensity laser is aimed at the blood vessels. The dye absorbs the laser energy and destroys the blood vessels.
The procedure is done on an outpatient basis. You will be given eye drops to dilate your pupil and numb your eye. You will also receive an injection of dye into a vein in your arm. You may feel minimal discomfort as the pulses of laser light are directed at the blood vessels. You may need additional treatments to manage blood vessel growth and prevent further vision loss.
The most serious side effect was a severe decrease in visual acuity. This affected about 1 in 50 patients within a week of treatment.
Anti-VEGF injections can be used for all forms of wet macular degeneration. The medication is injected directly into the eye after you are given topical numbing medication. It blocks a signal that causes the abnormal blood vessels to grow and leak. These injections are usually performed by a retina specialist and are usually given every 6 weeks. Although not a cure, these injections can help slow progression and preserve the vision you currently have.
Surgical removal of blood and abnormal blood vessels below the macula have been attempted, but have not been very successful. Researchers are currently investigating this and other forms of surgical intervention for macular degeneration.
Implantable Miniature Telescope
The implantable miniature telescope (IMT) is for people who have late-stage, age-related macular degeneration. During this procedure, a tiny, pea-sized telescope is surgically implanted in one eye. This telescope, which provides double the magnification, is designed to improve the person's vision by magnifying the image on a healthy portion of the retina.
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What is macular degeneration? American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amd-macular-degeneration. Accessed November 29, 2016.
What is macular degeneration? American Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at: https://www.macular.org/what-macular-degeneration. Accessed November 29, 2016.
11/1/2007 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Wormald R, Evans J, Smeeth L, Henshaw K. Photodynamic therapy for neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2007;(4):CD002030.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2015
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