Procedure helps reading

Thursday, November 25th, 2004

Radiofrequency energy waves correct a common problem

Pamela Fayerman

CREDIT: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun Dr. Francis Law of VisionMed frees Eric Wan from dependency on reading glasses.

Source: Marketscope, an independent research firm that follows the vision correction industry. Eye-opening numbers • Canadian industry observers expect a 15-per-cent increase in vision correction procedures in 2005 over 2004.

Fifty-five-year-old Burnaby realtor Eric Wan should be able to read this newspaper article about himself today without reading glasses, for the first time in years, following a brief and painless procedure Wednesday morning at a Vancouver clinic.

VisionMed is the first eye care facility in Canada to offer the three-minute, $1,500 NearVision procedure for presybyopia, a condition that half of Canada’s 10 million baby boomers are now experiencing and the other half will eventually experience, due to the aging process that affects the eye’s ability to focus on words and numbers at close range.

Wan said he was frustrated with being so dependent on reading glasses. “I am looking at a computer and at contracts all the time in my job. It is awkward with reading glasses and I wanted to get away from them. Now I can give them to my wife,” he said gleefully, minutes after the procedure took place at VisionMed on West Georgia.

(VisionMed, a subsidiary of Family Vision Care Ltd., has another clinic in Edmonton that is not yet offering the procedure.)

Demonstrating the technique to a news media audience, Vancouver ophthalmologist Dr. Francis Law first anesthetized Wan’s eye with drops, then used a lid speculum to hold it open.

Using a probe powered by radiofrequency energy, Law applied it in a circular fashion to eight points around the periphery of Wan’s cornea. The radiofrequency energy waves shrink the corneal tissue to cause a reshaping, or increased curvature of the eye.

Typically, only one eye needs to be done and Law said the procedure will not compromise the treated eye’s ability to see objects in the distance.

The NearVision CK (conductive keratoplasty) technique received approval from government authorities in the U.S. and Canada earlier this year for presbyopia. Dr. Michael Melenchuk, chief executive officer of VisionMed, hailed it for its potential to allow aging baby boomers “to turn back the clock on their eyes.”

But he acknowledged the procedure does not provide permanent results and patients may need less costly “enhancements” three to five years later.

Referring to a two-year clinical trial of 150 patients led by Stanford University doctors, Melenchuk said 98 per cent of participants could see newspaper and magazine print without reading glasses after the procedure while 87 per cent could read names and numbers in the phonebook.

There were no serious, sight-threatening events reported in the clinical trial, he said.

The procedure is recommended for those over age 40 who have excellent eye health and require glasses only for reading, not distance, Melenchuk said

VisionMed has invested more than $100,000 in the technology and he expects a 10- to 12-per-cent return on investment.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

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