February 8, 1997

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 - sgoodwi@emory.edu
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 - covnic@emory.edu

ATLANTA -- Emory University is studying an innovative new vision correction surgery that may eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses for moderately nearsighted individuals.

The surgery involves inserting a tiny, transparent ring into the cornea -- the dome-shaped, clear tissue in front of the eye. The ring reshapes the cornea and corrects nearsightedness. Unlike other vision correction surgeries that cut or remove tissue, this procedure appears to be reversible in its refractive effect.

George Waring III, M.D., professor of Ophthalmology at Emory Eye Center and a founding director of the Emory Vision Correction Center, is beginning an FDA-regulated Phase III clinical trial investigating this technique. Emory is the first facility in the Southeast and one of only 10 centers in the country with FDA approval to participate in this trial.

"The intrastromal corneal ring is intended to correct nearsightedness by altering the curve of the cornea without operating in the central cornea zone, the critical area for clear vision," Dr. Waring said. "It is especially designed to treat patients who have -1.0 to -3.5 diopters of myopia -- mild or moderate nearsightedness." An estimated 20 million adult Americans fall within this range of nearsightedness.

Even though the ring can remain permanently in the eye, a surgeon can remove it if the individual wants future surgery to correct vision in the event his or her eyesight changes with age. The ring has been in development for over 10 years and was first used in nearsighted patients in 1991. KeraVision Inc., based in Silicon Valley, Calif., makes the ring, which is composed of a polymer material that surgeons have used in the eye for more than 40 years. Results from FDA Phase II studies showed that ring implants corrected vision of 100 percent of the patients to 20/40 or better and 85 percent to 20/25 or better. When compared to patients who have had other refractive surgery procedures such as excimer laser photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), patients with the ring appeared to have a faster visual recovery and did not experience temporary hazy vision.

The procedure to insert the ring, which comes in different sizes depending on the amount of intended correction, takes approximately 15 minutes and is typically performed under a topical anesthetic. The surgeon makes a tiny incision in the periphery of the cornea to insert the ring. Dr. Waring and Emory cornea specialist Doyle Stulting, M.D., Ph.D., will enroll 45 patient into the Phase III clinical trial.

"We are especially excited about the possibility of offering a surgical procedure that is adjustable and reversible," said Dr. Stulting.

The Emory Eye Center is the third leading eye center in the United States for the number of ophthalmology clinical trials and is one of the top 10 institutions in the nation for the number of research grants. Among some of the more important work conducted at Emory is research into causes, diagnosis and prevention of glaucoma and corneal, retinal and inherited eye diseases.

The Eye Center created the Emory Vision Correction Center in 1994. It is the nation's first refractive surgery center formed in partnership with academic physicians and a large network of community doctors.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences News and Information at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to hsnews@emory.edu.

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