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Teen benefits from new procedure

November 22, 2017

Keratoconus is condition that thins the central zone of the cornea, the eye’s window. Patients often wear glasses to correct vision but on progression, hard contact lenses and eventually corneal transplant may be required.

Corneal collagen cross-linking is one surgical intervention used to prevent keratoconus developing to the stage of requiring a corneal transplant, which is the last resort.

After high success rates in adults, ophthalmologist Ben Connell is now leading a study into performing corneal cross-linking surgery on teenagers.

Dr Connell says 30 children aged 13 to 15, have been treated so far. "It looks very promising. The disease is more aggressive in children and starts early so it’s great for the kids that we can stop progression at an early age before it does too much damage," he says.

The study found children’s keratoconus was less likely to progress after cross-linking, and halting progression meant best vision was maintained.

Head of the Corneal unit at the Eye and Ear and Director of Surgical Research at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, Associate Professor Mark Daniell explains that while most cases of keratoconus present in adults, it progresses faster in children.

"It’s best done early because it can’t be done if the cornea is too thin, and treating before progression damages vision too much means maintaining good vision with glasses or contact lenses."

"We think it will last forever but there’s a window of opportunity while they’re a teen before it’s too severe," Dr Connell says. "Because of these results, corneal cross-linking will become standard procedure and maybe 50 teens a year will undergo cross-linking at the hospital."