Singapore 19th March 2013
Cornea surgery by S’porean specialist a groundbreaking success
Assoc Prof Leonard Ang successfully restored Adelyn Koh’s vision last November through a highly specialised eye reconstruction operation. Photo: Parkway Pantai Group
SINGAPORE — A Singapore eye specialist has performed groundbreaking surgery to restore vision in two children with cornea diseases. It was the first time the operation — which has better long-term success than conventional cornea transplants — had been done in South-east Asia.
The children, 23-month-old Hoang Binh Minh and 11-year-old Adelyn Koh — the former developed blindness in his right eye, while the latter was born blind — had their sight successfully restored last November through a highly specialised and complex eye reconstruction operation known as the Paediatric Boston Keratoprosthesis (KPro) surgery.
The operations were performed by Associate Professor Leonard Ang, Medical Director and Senior Consultant of the Lang Eye Centre. He is the first local surgeon and one of only a few surgeons in the world specially trained to do so.
Corneal blindness is the second most common treatable cause of blindness in the world, with over 20 million cases recorded globally. Cornea transplants had been the conventional but less effective option for restoring vision before the improved surgery was introduced, with more than 80 per cent of paediatric cornea transplants failing within three years.
The KPro surgery “has a much lower rate of graft rejection and is associated with better long-term success”, said Assoc Prof Ang at a press conference yesterday.
He hopes to restore up to 30 per cent of Adelyn’s vision, compared to zero before the surgery, and up to 70 per cent of Binh Minh’s, from less than 5 per cent previously.
Said Adelyn: “Last time, when I climbed steps, all I saw were countless things mounting up. I wouldn’t know how many steps there were. Now I can count up to a maximum of five steps.
“Every time I see something (I couldn’t see before), I get excited, like the colour of MRT seats,” she added.
The procedure is also less costly than cornea transplants. Most patients undergo three or four transplants, each costing S$15,000 to S$20,000, while the KPro surgery costs about S$30,000 and needs to be performed only once.
Other advantages include much faster visual rehabilitation and recovery, the elimination of the need for body-harming immunosuppressants and medication and better quality of vision.
Fewer than eight KPro surgical operations have been performed in Asia.