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Auckland Eye Surgeon to Learn New Sight-Saving Surgery

Auckland Eye Surgeon to Learn New Sight-Saving Surgery

10 September 2014

An Auckland eye surgeon is heading to the Solomon Islands to learn a new cataract surgery technique that will deliver first world results to patients in developing countries.

Dr David Pendergrast, an ophthalmologist at Auckland Eye, says his two-week trip to the Solomon Islands in September will enable him to perform hundreds of sight-saving cataract removal surgeries in developing nations.

“I’ll be learning a new technique that is better for developing countries as it takes less time, costs less, and has very good results,” explains Dr Pendergrast. “It will essentially give first world results for third world patients.”

The doctor has previously travelled to Papua New Guinea to perform hundreds of volunteer cataract removal surgeries, and says the impact they have on people’s lives is immense.

“It’s really satisfying work. People come in with cataracts from quite an early age in places like Papua New Guinea, from just 40 years old in some cases,” he says. “One 40-year-old man I saw had been totally blind from bilateral cataracts (meaning cataracts in both eyes) for five years, and had to be led around by a child for that entire time. But we were able to restore his vision.”

Dr Pendergrast says he gets many different reactions from patients in developing nations who have cataracts removed. “Some people are absolutely overtly delighted and you tend to get blessed a lot. Some are very shy, but you know it has taken them four hours to walk - being led by someone - to get to the clinic, and they’ll be able to walk back on their own, which is life-changing.”

While an older technique called extra-capsular cataract extraction has been used up till now in many places that receive voluntary specialist help from New Zealand surgeons, Dr Pendergrast says the new procedure – named manual small incision cataract extraction – will ultimately be better for patients as it requires fewer sutures and has a quicker recovery time.

The leading eye surgeon will learn the new procedure from fellow eye specialists working in the Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara with the support of the Fred Hollows Foundation.

He will go on to use this sight saving operation in Taveuni, Fiji, in November on a trip funded by the Rotary Club of Taveuni.


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