Small surgery, big reward

For the first time four Broken Hill residents have had a specific eye surgery at the Broken Hill Hospital rather than having to travel to Adelaide or further.

Dr Ashish Agar visited the city yesterday to perform ‘minimally invasive glaucoma surgery’ (MIGS). This had not been done outside of a major city before.

“Glaucoma’s the number one cause of irreversible blindness in Australia so it’s a very big issue, and until now we’ve had limited options to treat many of the patients suffering from it,” Dr Agar said.

“The new technology uses micro-stents to control the pressure in the eye.

“It’s keyhole surgery so there’s no big cuts. The incisions are about one and a half millimetres big, and the little stent helps the fluid drain out of the eye which controls the pressure, and if you control the pressure you control the glaucoma and prevent vision loss.”

Dr Agar said most glaucoma patients can be treated with eye drops, lasers or traditional surgery but it was good to be able to provide another option.

He said the traditional surgery is still a fantastic option, but is more involved and requires more aftercare, delaying the time patients can return home.

“I’ve been using this technology for a few years now so I’m very confident in its safety, and we’ve been able to get it out to Broken Hill way ahead of most other places,” Dr Agar said.

“We had four patients on Monday and we expect to have regular lists here,” he said.

“The whole point of the Outback Eye Service, which I’m a part of, is to enable services like this to come out to towns like Broken Hill, rather than have people travel. All Australians should have access to the best technology and care regardless of where they live.”

Beryl Thomas was one of the patients receiving the surgery yesterday and said she’s already had several operations on her eyes.

Ms Thomas, 84, said she had been wearing glasses since the age of two, and has had laser treatments, cataract operations and the traditional glaucoma surgery in the past, mostly at Adelaide hospitals.

“I’ve mostly had to go away to Adelaide for these operations which is not very convenient for you and your family. This is so much simpler, it makes a world of difference to have it happen here,” Ms Thomas said.

“The glaucoma operation was about three hours on the table. This one will be a lot quicker.

“I’m very confident. You couldn’t ask for anything better than Dr Agar and his team.”