The Australian Keratoprosthesis Service (AKS) in Sydney cares for people who are bilaterally vision impaired from devastating corneal blindness by performing highly specialised procedures involving newly developed techniques. AKS was established at Sydney Eye Hospital and Save Sight Institute in 2014 by Drs Greg Moloney (cornea and oculoplastics specialist, Sydney), Colin Clement (glaucoma subspecialist, Sydney), Mark Gorbatov (retinal subspecialist, Sydney), and Shannon Webber (oral maxillofacial surgeon, Gold Coast). With the support of the Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation and its donors, the service has grown in strength to manage this unique subset of patients from all over Australia and New Zealand.
The case for funding
Over the years, many artificial corneas have been tried and tested. Along the way there have also been many failures. The one that is more commonly used globally is the Boston Keratoprosthesis, but this requires eyes with moist surfaces and functional eyelids to protect the device.
The modified osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis was developed and serves the population who have eyes without functional, protective eyelids and dry surfaces (these surfaces are very hostile to standard cornea transplants and even to the Boston Keratoprosthesis). Local expertise to perform modified osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis is vital to meet the needs of these vulnerable patients.
Prior to AKS’s establishment, patients needing the highly specialised procedures to restore sight were required to travel to Singapore, the closest centre offering this service. This meant only those who were able to afford to travel could access the care they needed, and even then, time delays associated with travelling could potentially worsen their outcomes.
With thanks to the Foundation’s generous donors, specialists at Sydney Eye Hospital are among the few in Australia who have been trained to perform these specialist procedures. And who are therefore able to rehabilitate the most desperate of patients.
Now patients from all around Australia and New Zealand, who meet certain criteria and have no other options available, can access sight saving treatment at Sydney Eye Hospital for free.
Very few centres in the world are able to offer the service to the highest level as AKS are able. The service provides instant collaboration between subspecialties for these extraordinary complex cases, faster decision making, and only a one stop shop for the patient.
In addition, the clinic acts as a support network for the patients who have these unique and profoundly life changing experiences to connect with each other. The shared experience of having sight after so many years in the dark.
AKS sees patients on a once monthly basis at Sydney Eye Hospital with the joint involvement of Dr Tanya Trinh (cornea, external diseases, and refractive surgeon), Dr Colin Clement (glaucoma surgeon), and Dr Mark Gorbatov (vitreo-retinal surgeon), and the Fellows of each department respectively.
Dr Peter Martin, orbit and oculoplastics surgeon, is also a significant and highly valued contributor to the management of many of the complex cases seen at the ASK.
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“It was hard to navigate as I had been blind for a long time, but overnight I could see blobs of colour, then the blobs filled bigger areas and in just five weeks after surgery I had vision. I remember going out for dinner with Victor, my husband, and he had forgotten his glasses; I said, “Let me read the menu,” and we did a high five!” – Heather Pozzoban, recipient of the AKS service. Read more of Heather’s story here.