Evening Standard: ‘Star Trek’ Surgery Restores The Eyesight Of Near-Blind Patients

A radical new procedure credited with helping the virtually blind to see again has been pioneered at a London clinic.

The keyhole operation – which has been likened to “something out of Star Trek” – is said to eliminate many of the problems associated with Laser Eye Surgery and can take less than five minutes.

The Smile technique (Small incision lenticule extraction) works by making an incision of no more than 3mm in the cornea, the transparent part of the eye in front of the iris.

Surgeons working with a microscope then remove a tiny disc from the inside of the cornea to reshape it. It has helped people who wear “milk-bottle” glasses and those with -10 vision and worse.

The procedure, which costs about £6,500, was developed across five clinics around the world including at Harley Street’s London Vision Clinic by Professor Dan Reinstein. He said: “This is a keyhole version of a procedure which has already been done 35 million times called LASIK.

“In LASIK a thin shaving of the front of the cornea is cut and the flap is lifted out of the way to gain access to the inside of the cornea. In Smile we are doing the same tissue removal but without any flap.”

He said the technique – available under private health care – could help up to 100,000 people who would previously have been told they were not suitable for Laser Surgery.

“What’s available now is very safe but it has limitations and inconveniences such as dry eye, which most people get for a month but some people for up to a year,” he said.

“Smile can be offered to many people whose dry eye makes them unsuitable for traditional Laser Eye Surgery because we are no longer cutting the surface of the eye and therefore we are not disturbing the nerves at the front of the cornea.”

Professor Reinstein added: “Stereo-tactic neurosurgery or heart transplants, or sewing someone’s hand back on – these are all very fine microsurgical procedures, but compared with those procedures this is nano-surgery.

“It is like you go down to surgery on the Star Trek Enterprise and you come back without glasses.”

‘Life Transforming’ Operation

Mischa Hunt – underwent a ‘life transforming’ operation at London Vision Clinic

Mischa Hunt, a business management student, had the operation this year and said it had transformed her life.

The 18-year-old, whose sight started deteriorating a decade ago, had -10 vision, making her extremely short-sighted. But that changed after her mother was told about Smile.

Miss Hunt, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, who is now at Aston University, said: “I never went into it expecting perfect vision but I have, which is pretty amazing. I used not to be able to get out of bed in the morning without putting my glasses on.

“I couldn’t see a thing. If I was trying to read something it would have to be a couple of inches away from my face.”

She added: “I’m at university now and I have not had to worry about my eyes. It’s transformed my life completely.”