Laser Surgery for Eye Floaters, Specks Proves Safe


The distractive spots floating through fields of vision may have finally met their match.

Inder Paul Singh, MD

A laser treatment to eradicate “floaters” — the common spots and specks seen drifting through people’s fields of vision — has proven to be safe.

In research presented at the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO 2017) in New Orleans, LA, a laser procedure to remove large, symptomatic floaters from 680 patients resulted in complications in less than 1% of the patient population.

Inder Paul Singh, MD, an ophthalmologist with the Eye Centers of Racine and Kenosha in Wisconsin, shared follow-up analysis of the 1,272 total procedures the patients underwent via the Ellex Ultra Q Reflex YAG laser, from Ellex Medical Lasers.

In the follow-ups between 1 and 4 years after the operations, just 10 (0.8%) had resulted in complications. The common complication for patients was intraocular pressure increase, which is generally treated with antihypertensive eye drop therapies.

With a significantly low rate of complications, the procedure could be perceived especially beneficial for older, near-sighted, or cataract surgery patients. Floaters are a general term for collagen, a protein that’s part of the vitreous in the back of the eye.

The vitreous shrinks with age, forming various opacities. The floaters in patients’ field of vision are shadows of protein casted onto the retina.

According to the study, about 25% of people experience vitreous change by age 60. At age 80, that rate rises to about two-thirds of all people. A 2013 study found that about one-third of patients report floaters interfere with their daily activities.

The laser procedure to eradicate floaters in fields of vision does so by breaking them up into smaller pieces that are less visible to the retina. It has been practiced in patients since the 1980s, but has faced brushback from clinicians who believe lasers could lead to inadvertent damage to the lens or retina if used to target floaters.

The laser procedure in a post-operation setting, YAG laser vitreolysis, was based on newer technology. It was among a generation of lasers designed to maximize visualization of floaters in relation to patients’ lens and retinas.

The new form of laser surgery is “slowing growing in acceptance” in ophthalmologists in both the US and Europe, Singh said. Coupled with the founded International Ophthalmic Floater Society (IOFS), Singh believes the treatment could become a mainstream method of ophthalmology care.

The IOFS, founded in 2016, is aimed at studying the merits of the floater removal surgery and other treatment options, Singh said. He was appointed the inaugural chair of the society at the time of its founding.

The IOFS also works in “sharing experiences and protocols, and raising awareness” in floater treatment, Singh said.

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