Technology originally developed by the Engineering Department at the University of Warwick to examine the behaviour of aeroplane turbines, is now to be used to revolutionise the way surgeons perform a particular range of eye operations.
Vitreo-Retinal surgery is a highly complicated form of eye surgery which one surgeon has described as being like "Removing pieces of super glue from a wet tissue paper without causing any damage to the tissue". Only highly skilled surgeons can perform this difficult procedure which requires them to make four separate incisions into the eye to insert four probes to monitor all the conditions within the eye that have a bearing on the operation.
Professor Peter Bryanston-Cross, and his research team in the Optical Engineering Laboratory of the University of Warwick's Engineering Department, have devised a method of applying research they had carried out on the measurement of supersonic flows on aeroengine turbines using very small laser based probes, to simplify the task faced by these eye surgeons.
Professor Bryanston-Cross and his team have joined with a Redditch based ophthalmic company, Sterimedex Ltd, to develop this technology. By using these very fine laser based probes (1mm in diameter) surgeons will be able to halve the number of probes required in the operation (from 2 to 4). They will also be freed from having to make any incision into the eye as the fine size of the probes allows them to be inserted and extracted from the eye without major incision, leaving just a tiny self healing entry hole. The probes will also be able to provide more "real time" information about what is going on within the eye than has been the case to date.
The Warwick research team is working with surgeons in the UK, Cologne, Nijmegan, Paris and Barcelona on these new techniques. The new technology will enable a much wider range of surgeons to carry out the operation reducing huge waiting lists for this type of operation.
Sterimedex Medical technology consultant Mr Maurice Abney Hastings is already in discussion with the University's Engineering Department on several other medical engineering research projects.