A Glimpse into the History of Cataract Surgery: From Ancient Methods to Modern Miracles

Cataract surgery is widely acclaimed as one of the most successful treatments not just in the eye care world but in all medicine. One may be surprised to learn that cataract surgery is not limited to recent advancements in modern technology. Cataract surgery dates back as early as the 5th century BC. Can you imagine any surgery without anesthesia? Ancient cataract extraction performed by Indian doctors was called couching. In this technique, doctors would dislodge the cataract lens into the back of the eye enabling light to enter the eye. Ancient Greeks and Egyptians utilized a similar method of slicing the cataract into multiple particles in a process known as needling. The small particles were then absorbed by the body. Both procedures repositioned the cataract obstruction from the visual axis but because it was not removed altogether restored vision was limited and left unfocused. 

As time went on, medicine significantly improved. As early as 600 BC, an Indian surgeon named Sushruta performed the first extracapsular cataract extraction. The first recorded surgical cataract extraction from the West was performed successfully by French surgeon Jacques Daviel in 1747. Before the mid-1900’s, patients were left without a lens after cataract surgery. In 1949, British ophthalmologist Sir Harold Ridley, using a material called polymethyl methacylate, attempted to replace inner eye lenses in cataract patients. The efforts were unsuccessful for the most part, but his invention introduced the idea of lens replacement which would change the course of history for cataract surgery.

In 167, Dr. Charles Kelman developed a process known as phacoemulsification, the technique that uses ultrasonic vibrations to break apart cataracts and then remove the particles with a probe. This is how cataracts are still removed in large part today. Having found a successful way to remove cataracts, there was still a need for a successful replacement lens. In 1978, DR. Kai-yi Zhou performed the first lens implant with foldable silicone. In 1986, Dr. Patricia Bath invented the laserphaco probe which uses light energy to ablate and remove cataracts. This revolutionary advancement restores vision in patients who had been blind for more than three decades. Today, over 25 million Americans have cataracts. Thanks to pioneering within the medical community, today’s patient success rate of 98% is due to the evolution of ancient methods to modern miracles in cataract surgery. 

To learn more about cataract surgery options, visit WEBSITE. For a comprehensive eye exam to determine if you have cataracts or to monitor cataract progression, call Pennachio Eye at 325-227-1999. 

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