Laser zaps trip for eye job
Largest donation ever moves surgery here

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 08/96) - The latest piece of medical equipment at Stanton Regional Hospital will pay for itself in a year and reduce time and hassle for patients requiring treatment.

An anonymous donation of $15,000, the largest the hospital has ever received from an individual, allowed the hospital's eye clinic to get its own Yag laser.

The laser, a refurbished unit worth $18,000, is used in a procedure required by many patients who have had cataract surgery.

Known as a laser capsulotomy, the operation involves burning a hole through a membrane behind the lens of the eye. Ideally, the eye is perfectly clear, allowing light focused by the lens to pass through it to the optic nerve.

Quite often, though, after cataract surgery, the eye clouds over. The Yag laser makes a hole in the clouded membrane, letting light pass through once again.

"It's designed to deliver a type of energy that disrupts transparent material," explained Stanton eye specialist Dr. Leonard Smith.

The clinic got it's Yag laser in August. Prior to that Smith flew with groups of his patients to Edmonton to perform the procedure.

Last year he performed the surgery on nine patients at a cost to the health-care system of approximately $18,000.

The device can also be used to treat some problems associated with glaucoma.

Apart from the cost savings, the Yag laser will reduce the amount of time patients must wait for the procedure.

"There are also a number of patients who just refuse to go to Edmonton, either because they're older or don't want to travel," Smith said.

The procedure is completely painless, requiring no anesthetic. Patients sit on a stool on one side of the machine. A brace is used to keep the head still during the surgery while eye drops dilate the pupils.

The laser uses two sighting beams to aim and focus its energy. Pulses of laser light create a microscopic explosion, which leaves a hole for light to pass through.

Dr. Smith said the machine, made of solid-state components, should be good for 10,000 treatments before refurbishing.