Our Ophthalmology team has started a new service, known as ‘Corneal Cross-linking’. The procedure is used to treat a relatively rare condition called Keratoconus, which leads to progressive bulging and thinning of the cornea and ultimately to a deterioration in vision. In the early stages, keratoconus can be managed with special contact lenses or glasses, but in advanced cases a corneal transplant may be required, which comes with associated risks and complications. The new Cross-linking procedure is designed to stop the condition worsening, by strengthening the cornea, preventing further bulging or thinning and therefore further loss of vision, and is effective in nine out of ten patients.
It involves numbing the eye with drops and removing the top layer of the cornea (the epithelium). Riboflavin (vitamin B12) drops are then applied to the eye and exposed to ultra-violet light – this causes a chemical reaction which leads to the formation of bonds between the collagen molecules in the cornea. This clever ‘cross-linking’ reaction is how the cornea is strengthened.
The Trust has been able to fund the new service through the use of hospital charitable funds. Clinical Lead for Ophthalmology, Miss Heidi Chittenden, said: “This is a welcome development for our service and our younger adult patients, who now have an alternative to a corneal transplant by halting the progress of this condition. On behalf of all the Ophthalmology team, I would like to thank everyone – patients, their families, friends and the local community – who have donated to the Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospital’s charitable funds and enabled this to happen.”