Doctors working at the University have developed a laser scalpel that can be used in every type of opthamology surgery and is 10 times more accurate than traditional methods.

The laser, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this year and has been used in over 600 surgeries to date, has an accuracy of five micrometers, said Tibor Juhasz, one of the researchers.

In traditional surgery, doctors use a mechanical blade to cut a flap of the cornea, then a laser is used to reshape or remove a portion of the cornea, and the flap is repositioned. Now surgeons can use the new laser to make the initial incision.

“Recovery time of the patients is practically the same as with traditional methods, but safety and accuracy are the areas where we really add a lot. Out of 600 surgeries we didn”t have any major complications,” Juhasz said.

The market for the laser scalpel is huge not only can it be used in surgery, but the laser engineered and sold by IntraLase TM Corporation a company co-founded by Juhasz and fellow University researcher Ron Kurtz works in a non-laboratory environment, as well as in the lab.

This fact may be one reason the Department of Defense gave a grant for the laser”s development.

“The Department of Defense gave us a grant because they had a particular interest in the laser we were developing, but, as they are the Department of Defense, they didn”t say why they were interested in this laser,” explained Juhasz.

According to Kurtz, the first surgery performed with the laser was in Hungary in early 1993.

“We did not have the (FDA) approval, so we had to go to a site outside the US,” explained Juhasz.

Researchers are now exploring the possibility of extending this technique to other eye procedures, such as cornea transplants or glaucoma treatment.

“We have barely begun to explore the myriad of uses that the laser offers in the clinical management of glaucoma,” Paul Lichter, director of the Kellogg Eye Center, said in a written statement.

Currently Kellogg does not have one of the lasers but expects to get one, perhaps by the end of the year, according to Randy Wallach, executive editor at Kellogg.

Despite costing more than the traditional method, Juhasz said when given the choice, nearly everybody prefers to have the laser used in their surgery.

“We have slightly increased costs but we also feel that the added safety and accuracy are worthwhile to pay more money,” Juhasz said.

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