The procedure, which can greatly cut the risk of blindness, would be a boon for Singapore’s ageing population, since the disease affects 80 per cent of those above 60 years old.
Most patients are able to opt for the surgery, which helps to preserve the layer of cells lining the inside of the cornea, a transparent surface of the eye that lets in light, through the use of a laser.
These cells cannot regenerate, making their preservation critical.
The more cells that are saved, the lower the chance of blindness, and of needing a cornea transplant in the future.
More than 30,000 cataract operations are carried out a year in Singapore.
The new method is especially useful for older patients because the number of endothelial cells lining the cornea gets fewer with age,
The development allows patients with a low endothelial cell count to have cataract surgery safely, he added.
Of the 40 patients who underwent the new “femtosecond laser assisted cataract surgery method with patented lens cubing technology”, half experienced negligible cell loss.
In contrast, those who had the traditional cataract surgery typically lose about 10 to 40 per cent of endothelial cells.
Cataract is a disease in which the lens of the eye gets clouded, obscuring vision.
The normal procedure involves the sole use of ultrasound to dissolve the cataract.
The doctor then sucks the pieces out of the patient’s eye with a pump. However, ultrasound damages the inner lining of cells.
The new method, which was developed in the United States, uses a laser to first break up the cloudy lens into tiny cubes. That allows for a more limited use of ultrasound to dislodge the particles.
The cost of the laser-assisted surgery for each eye is $2,300 for subsidised patients, and up to $6,800 for private patients. The usual operation costs $1,000 and up to $5,000 respectively.
But the conventional cataract surgery was an issue for him, given his borderline endothelial cell count.
So he opted for the laser-assisted day surgery, which takes 35 minutes to complete for each eye, about 15 minutes longer than the previous method.
Dr Natasha Lim graduated from the University of Nottingham Medical School in the United Kingdom (UK). She is a fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in London. She underwent a residency training programme in Ophthalmology in Central London (1998 – 2000), then onward to advanced surgical training at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London (2001 – 2005).
Dr Lim was appointed as Specialist Fellow in Oculoplastic Surgery (2005), and in Cornea, Cataract and Refractive Surgery (2006 – 2008) at Moorfields Eye Hospital, one of the most renowned eye centres in the world.
Dr Natasha Lim in her treatment room
In 2008 Dr Lim returned to Singapore and was appointed Consultant at the Cataract Singapore and Comprehensive Ophthalmology Service of Singapore National Eye Centre. In 2011, she became the Medical Director of The Lasik Surgery Clinic at Wheelock and Centre for Eye Surgery.
Dr Lim is a fellowship-trained refractive surgeon with keen research and clinical interests in Laser Refractive Surgery and Refractive Cataract Surgery. She had been a joint physician in London for an international clinical trial (which met US FDA standards) of a new generation excimer laser machine for an industry leader in the laser refractive industry. She is a registered VISX excimer laser and IntraLase femtosecond laser practitioner in the UK and in Singapore.
At the Asia Pacific Association of Cataract and Refraction Refractive Surgeons in July 2013, Dr Natasha Lim Eye Centre was accredited Centre of Excellence for the use of Lentis multi-focal intra-ocular lens implant for the correction of presbyopia.
She has participated as an invited panel speaker on LASIK for Abbott Medical Optics (AMO Inc) who manufactures the iDesign, VISX and Intralase lasers. She has presented her LASIK results internationally at Refractive Surgery meetings and she is the only Ophthalmologist from Singapore elected to publish her results on the worldwide AMO iDesign Registry that provides guidance to other iLASIK surgeons. Dr Lim is an internationally renowned pioneer LASIK surgeon for iDesign ilasik surgery in Singapore.