There are a few images that people commonly associate with cataract surgeries (actually eye surgeries in general): first on the list, is a pair of oversized, horn-rimmed dark glasses, popularised by the visually handicapped.
Right after that comes a plastic eye patch in blue with bandages running across, ostensibly to keep the operated eye from falling out. And finally, the operatee staying at home for a month or more before their ‘eye stitches’ are removed, and they regain the gift of sight.
Not any more, say the doctors at the Regional Ophthalmic Institute and Government Eye Hospital. Since July, they have been using a lighter, foldable intraocular lens for patients with cataracts in their eyes — which is a far cry from the rigid lenses that were used earlier. “The most important difference is that the cornea doesn’t need to be ‘cut’ and ‘stitched up’ with this lens,” explains Dr V Kanagasabai, Dean of Madras Medical College to which the RIO is attached. Patients who walked in with cataracts in their eyes and had these lenses put in, were surprised to be discharged the next morning, “If they have age on their side, they can begin to read, write and work within two days,” he adds.
Close to 250 such surgeries have been completed with excellent results.
Though private hospitals have been using foldable lens for a while now, RIO is the first government hospital in the south to offer this service at their usual rate — absolutely free.
So what has stopped them from doing it earlier, you may ask. “Cost,” he says simply, “There is a price difference of almost `15,000 between the surgeries and so we have had to stick to rigid lens thus far,” he adds. Though this surgery is not covered under the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme, it was the scheme itself that unknowingly funded the entire process, “We had some excess money from the insurance money received for other surgeries, which we diverted for foldables lens, and the response has been tremendous,” says Dr Kanagasabai, adding that he hopes this will come under the cover of the CM’s insurance scheme.