Eyes of world on hospital as laser innovation saves sight

Pioneering implants using surgical lasers at a Leeds hospital are saving the sight of young adults across Yorkshire.

Moosa Aswat who is receiving pioneering laser implant treatment for an eye condition at Leeds St James's Hospital. Picture by Graham Lindley.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has revolutionised the treatment of the progressive eye condition keratoconus, which mainly affects people in their twenties.

The condition, which weakens the shape of the cornea and can lead to blindness, is more common among the Asian population and affects around one in 1,000 people in Yorkshire – double the rate nationally.

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The laser treatment comes after three years of work by surgeons at Leeds St James’s Hospital, which is one of only three hospitals nationwide capable of the procedure.

James Ball, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at St James’s, said: “Keratoconus has an impact on people at a time in life when they’re finishing their degrees and starting families – it can be devastating.”

He said: “We want to achieve a generation of people with keratoconus for whom they have a mild treatment that sets them up for a lifetime of vision.”

The painless five-minute procedure involves surgeon’s using an advanced laser to create a tunnel into which a corneal ring or ‘Keraring’ can be implanted to restore the cornea’s shape.

Kerarings have been manually inserted at St James’s since 2007 but thanks to the laser, the success rate for patients has rocketed from 25 to 97 per cent.

Construction director Sam Allen, 36, from Skipton, noticed his vision suddenly worsen in 2012 and, fearing for his sight, was referred to St James’s to trial the new procedure last year.

“Instantly my right eye was better having had the operation. I feel incredibly lucky,” he said.

Retail worker Moose Aswat, 25, from Batley, is in the midst of treatment after being diagnosed two years ago. He added: “At the moment it’s all pluses really.”