A tiny medical device the size of a number on a penny is significantly improving vision in glaucoma patients, . The millimeter-long iStent, the tiniest implantable device ever approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is inserted through a 1.5 millimeter corneal incision in the trabecular meshwork of the eye during cataract surgery. The trabecular meshwork is an area of tissue around the base of the cornea responsible for draining the eye-pressure-maintaining fluid known as aqueous humour from the eye. The insertion of the iStent in the micro invasive glaucoma surgery acts to release the pressure in the eye caused by the build up of this fluid that is often a contributing factor in cases of glaucoma.
The iStent was for the treatment of mild to moderate open-angle glaucoma, or OAG. The most common form of glaucoma found in the United States and Canada, OAG usually affects both eyes simultaneously. Vision may worsen so slowly and gradually that patients do not even notice it, with the side, or peripheral vision, usually being lost before central vision deteriorates.
Traditionally the treatment for glaucoma has been multiple daily doses of eye drops, called ocular hypotensive medication. The new breakthrough medical device, iStent, does away with the drops completely in some cases. The miniscule piece of medical equipment is not felt or seen by patients and is only visible with a microscope. Patients enjoy a very quick recovery after the procedure, and the restoration of vision is often remarkable. The iStent does not damage eye tissue as is often the case with more traditional forms of eye surgeries, and the medical device does not preclude further treatment options that might be required for the maintaining of vision at a later date.
More stents are currently being developed that will allow for even earlier intervention in the treatment of glaucoma.