October 19, 1997

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -

SAN FRANC ISCO -- Preliminary data from Emory Eye Center and Barnes Retina Institute in St. Louis evaluated a vitreoretinal surgery that might serve as an alternative to laser treatment of certain forms of macular degeneration and ocular histoplasmosis. A nationw ide clinical trial based on the pilot studies has begun at 10 eye centers across the country.

An overview of the experimental surgery and plans for the Submacular Surgery Trial (SST) are presented at this week's American Academy of Ophthalmol ogy meeting by Paul Sternberg Jr., M.D., vice chairman of SST and director of the Retinal Surgery Division of the Department of Ophthalmology at Emory University School of Medicine.

Patients will be recruited with subfoveal neovascular macular d egeneration and ocular histoplasmosis, types of retinal disease characterized by formation of a blood vessel complex under the macula -- the center of the light-catching retina located on the inside back wall of the eye. Presence of the vessels can cause fluid leakage, bleeding and eventual vision loss. Study subjects will be randomized to either receive the surgery or to remain under observation (since some eyes will spontaneously stabilize without surgical intervention).

"Lasers are the only proven procedure for this type of macular degeneration," says Dr. Sternberg. "And though highly beneficial, only about three percent of patients with macular degeneration qualify. We are evaluating a procedure to surgically remove the vascular mass th at -- if successful -- would be an option for many more patients with this potentially blinding loss of central vision."

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Last Updated: October 19, 1997