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Seeing is believing

Just ask Tung Phan, an electronic designer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator who recently underwent a spectacular lens implantation surgery at O’Connor Hospital. Tung, 47, spends eight hours a day at his computer, so he noticed immediately when his left eye began to fail him. “A cataract started forming on my eye about one year ago,” he said. “It worsened quickly, and about two months ago I had only 10 percent vision in my left eye."

Tung’s physician referred him to Randal Pham, M.D., ophthalmologic surgeon at O’Connor Hospital. Days later, Tung experienced one of the biggest breakthroughs in cataract implantation technology in the last decade.“This delicate surgery, called intraocular lens implantation (IOL) is designed to provide patients with a full range of vision, from near to far, for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Pham, an innovator in cataract surgery. Since its inception in the early 90s, IOL has benefited more than 60 mil-lion patients with cataracts worldwide.

Dr. Randal Pham Team

Anesthesiologist Larry Sullivan, M.D., (left) and Dr. Randal Pham
work with a team of excellent nurses. From left to right:
Liz Montelibano, Terry Kuhn, and Tess Sanchez.

Dr. Pham envisions a world without glasses. He was the first physician in northern California to perform this surgery, which is a step beyond the popular surgery we know as Lasik. “This revolutionary technology addresses the middle age problem of blurry vision up close, whereas Lasik can only correct distance vision.” According to Dr. Pham, this is one of the safest procedures performed in the U.S. today.

The human lens is made up of mostly water and protein. The protein lets light pass through and focus on the retina. Sometimes, some of the protein clumps together and starts to cloud a small area of the lens. This cloudy area in the eye’s lens is called a cataract. As we age, the cataract grows larger, making it hard to see.

Using instruments the size of a strand of human hair, Dr. Pham and his specialty-trained nurse look through a microscope as they directly implant a lens on the eye of their patient. Making a tiny incision less than three millimeters, Dr. Pham gently rotates the lens using the “Pham hook” (named after him!) so he can remove the cataract and then suction it out. Via the same tiny incision, a new intraocular lens is placed in the eye, unfolded and set into permanent position.

Dr. Pham’s patients come from all walks of life. Normally within a day, his patients can go back to their daily activities, with a bright future ahead of them.

Reprinted with permission from the July 1, 2005 O'Connor Hospital Insight Newsletter (OCH 07 01 05.pdf)

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