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by Jessica Pasley | Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 9:05 AM
Suzy Gore spent the last 10 years watching her eyesight decline.
Unable to see the vision chart at her doctor’s office without corrective lenses, tired of halo effects around lights and the challenge of driving at night, Gore decided to undergo laser cataract surgery.
Now she is looking forward to the next few decades of seeing the world from a clearer point of view thanks to the work of Daniel Weikert, M.D., assistant professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute.
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye characterized by fuzzy vision and sensitivity to glare. The leading cause of blindness in the world, they affect more than 22 million people in the United States.
“I must admit, when Dr. Weikert told me I was developing cataracts when I was 50, I was floored,” said Gore, a longtime patient of Weikert. “I just didn’t think I was in that category yet and they were not interfering with my eyesight then.
“When we discussed it again this past August, I remember asking him, ‘now, if I was your mama, what would you tell her to do?’”
“He looked right at me and said: ‘I think having the procedure would make a big difference and in fact, I did my mother’s cataracts.’”
Gore, 60, is now one of nearly 100 patients who have elected to undergo the corrective surgery, which is done by Vanderbilt ophthalmologists at the Cool Springs Surgery Center.
Ophthalmologists at VEI are able to offer the laser cataract technology as well as continue to perform the traditional cataract surgery using hand-made incisions with a surgical blade (used in 80 percent of cases).
“In time, the laser will become a larger part of the cataract practice because it gives the potential for better optical results,” Weikert said. “The laser allows for precise incisions every time, reduced complications post surgery and the ability to treat astigmatism that will sharpen their vision.
“This tool is putting Vanderbilt on the cutting edge of eye care. Since utilizing this procedure, we have had a steady influx of area surgeons wanting to be trained at our facility. As we are certifying other community surgeons, it goes further than Vanderbilt. We are reaching past our own patient population,” Weikert said.
Although the procedure is not yet covered by insurance, many patients are electing to have the laser cataract surgery because studies are showing it is safer, more effective and efficient and the outcomes are better.
Patients are awake throughout the entire 30-minute procedure. During the laser portion, which takes about two minutes, the patient is given anesthetic drops to numb the eye. Afterward, the patient receives an intravenous medication to help them relax as they are taken into the OR suite, where the cataract is removed and the lens is implanted.
Gore, retired from a 30-year teaching career, is still giddy over the success of her cataract surgery. She no longer requires glasses or readers.
“I have been wearing glasses since I was 9 years old,” she said. “And they were a pretty strong prescription. The potential for waking up and not having to search for my glasses was so attractive to me. And I wanted to give my eyes the best chance.
“It’s funny because I am still reaching to take off my glasses when I turn off the light at night when I go to sleep,” she said.
Jessica Pasley, (615) 322-4747
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