Strong Surgeon Launches Biggest Study Yet of Custom Vision Correction

October 14, 2002

The eye doctor who has pioneered new surgical methods to help patients achieve a quality of eyesight that doctors and patients only dreamed of until recently is launching the world’s largest study of customized laser vision correction.

Ophthalmologist Scott MacRae, M.D., professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is beginning two studies that will enroll up to 120 patients in the Rochester area. The studies will enroll participants interested in laser vision correction, where patients are treated briefly with a laser beam that sculpts the cornea. The procedure has allowed hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide to literally throw away their glasses or contact lenses.

MacRae will look at a unique form of the surgery known as “customized ablation,” a new technique that allows doctors to precisely tailor the surgery to compensate for the most minute imperfections deep within a person’s eye. Eventually, MacRae plans to include 750 patients, which would make it the largest study ever of customized ablation. Doctors will compare conventional laser vision correction to the customized version, which several dozen people in the Rochester area have already received in a previous study by MacRae.

Such studies are crucial to making the procedure safer, and making sure that people benefit as much as possible from the procedure, MacRae says.

“With the latest technology used in our research studies, many patients today see better than doctors thought was possible just 10 years ago,” says MacRae, medical director of Strong Vision. “As more and more doctors begin doing these procedures for patients, it’s crucial that we discover what works best for patients, and who is appropriate for the procedure and who is not.”

MacRae is part of a Rochester team of scientists and physicians who founded the field of customized ablation – also known as “supervision” among many eye experts. He works closely with University of Rochester scientist David Williams, who was the first person to design and build a system to allow doctors to see the inside of the human eye in extraordinary detail. Using the same technology that allows astronomers to remove the twinkle from starlight, Williams has discovered dozens of previously unknown imperfections in the human eye. Now MacRae is among a handful of surgeons using that knowledge to correct a patient’s vision in unprecedented detail.

Today, nearly all patients whose vision is corrected – whether by contact lenses, glasses, or refractive surgery – have only two or three of their visual imperfections corrected, out of the more than 60 imperfections observed by Williams. Studies such as those by MacRae currently offer the only opportunity in the nation for patients to have the additional imperfections corrected.

In a previous study of customized ablation, MacRae and two other surgeons operated on a total of 340 eyes. More than 91 percent of patients’ eyes ended up with vision that is 20/20 or better – that’s the highest percentage that University of Rochester eye doctors are aware of from any large completed study of laser vision correction anywhere in the world. Seven out of 10 patients saw their vision improve to 20/16 or better. In that study, 97 percent of patients said they had “marked” or “extreme” improvement; not a single patient said his or her vision had worsened.

As an editor of the two world’s top two journals devoted to the subject, the Journal of Refractive Surgery and the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, MacRae is constantly evaluating the latest findings of his peers from around the world. Through his service for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, he has also helped set safety standards for procedures like customized ablation, and he helps educate other eye doctors about safety issues.

Later this month, at meetings of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the International Society of Refractive Surgery, he will discuss his recent findings about crucial safety issues such as how a patient’s pupil size can affect the outcome of surgery. He also teaches new refractive-surgery techniques in seminars around the world.

MacRae is the author of “Customized Corneal Ablation: The Quest for Supervision.” The book was the first to lay out both the basic science underlying enhanced vision or “super vision” and the clinical possibilities. It is now the definitive text on the procedure and currently sells for upwards of $200 a copy.

In the current studies, each participant will have surgery on both eyes. One eye will be treated with conventional refractive surgery, and the other will be treated with one of two customized treatments. Participants must be 21 years of age or older and in good health. Surgery will be provided at a discounted rate.

Anyone interested in participating in the studies should call (585) 273-2020.

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