This medical breakthrough in Sheffield could save people's sight

A new procedure in a Sheffield hospital may have saved the sight of a woman who has suffered with glaucoma for nearly four decades

By Sally Burton
Thursday, 27th June 2019, 12:00 pm
Updated Friday, 28th June 2019, 11:45 am
Jean Billam, thrilled with the results of an eye procedure in Sheffield
Jean Billam, thrilled with the results of an eye procedure in Sheffield

Jean Billam, 78, who lives in Sothall, described the results of the operation, undertaken at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, as “absolutely amazing”.

The pressure in her right eye has dropped to its lowest level in 35 years, as a result of the pioneering work.

The procedure, the first of its kind in Europe, involves the use of a new hi-tech device called a goniotome, which works in a similar way to other glaucoma surgeries, particularly the trabectome procedure.

It drains fluid in the eye to release pressure that could otherwise potentially damage the optic nerve and eventually cause blindness. 

However, unlike the trabectome, the goniotome has a dual-cutting mechanism and V-shaped blade which enables surgeons to access the complex structures of the eye.

Once the goniotome probe is inside the sieve-like area of the eye known as the trabecular meshwork, surgeons can carefully strip away tissue, allowing them to open up eye drainage canals, so fluid can permeate to the low pressure blood system.

This in turn releases pressure in the eye, preventing damage to the optic nerve.

For Jean, it means she could do away with a lifetime’s dependency on eye drops.

“The thing about glaucoma is you don’t know you have it, and that’s why it can be so dangerous,” said Jean, who received screening tests for glaucoma after her brother was diagnosed with the condition.

Mr Graham Auger, consultant ophthalmologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to be offering patients with moderate glaucoma, who have previously not responded to first line therapies,this new procedure.”