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Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
Date:7/2/2008

Even those with severe disease can save some vision, experts say

WEDNESDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Glaucoma doesn't necessarily have to end in blindness, two new studies suggest.

In one report, researchers say they found traditional surgery for glaucoma has better outcomes than using glaucoma drainage devices. The second report found that even patients with end-stage glaucoma can be successfully treated. Both studies were published in the July issue of Ophthalmology.

In the first report, researchers looked at the number of complications from traditional glaucoma surgery versus complications from inserting a device that drains fluid from the eye.

"We found a higher complication rate for glaucoma drainage devices than for traditional surgery," said lead researcher Frank Sloan, the Alexander McMahon Professor of Health Policy and Management at Duke University. "Of course, adverse outcomes for either procedure are rare."

In deciding between the two procedures, physicians will have to balance the risks versus the benefits, Sloan said. "It's good for ophthalmologists to have these outcome rates in mind when they counsel patients," he said.

In the study, Sloan and his colleagues collected data on 14,491 Medicare patients with glaucoma. These patients all underwent one of three surgeries. These included primary trabeculectomy (PT), trabeculectomy after scarring from previous surgery or trauma (TS), or the implanting of a glaucoma drainage device (GDD).

All these surgeries are designed to improve the drainage of fluid from the eye and reduce intraocular pressure. In trabeculectomy, a small portion of the tissue at the base of the cornea is removed to increase fluid flow, and in GDD a tiny shunt is implanted, which redirects fluid flow.

Sloan's group found that all of procedures had few adverse outcomes. However, GDD resulted in more patients progressing to low vision or b
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