Research by Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology has found that patients who have been newly diagnosed with glaucoma benefit more from laser surgery than the current method of using eye drops to lower intraocular pressure.
Not only does the treatment have a higher success rate but the research also suggests annual savings to the NHS of £1.5 million in direct treatment costs, with this potentially rising to £250 million if the treatment proves more beneficial for patients with later stage glaucoma.
Glaucoma is the name given to conditions that involve increased pressure in the eye causing damage to the optic nerve. It can lead to misty and patch vision and, if left untreated, can lead to loss of central vision.
The three-year trial, the largest of its kind, tested either selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) treatment or the current eye drop treatment on 718 newly diagnosed glaucoma or ocular hypertension patients.
Patients who had received SLT had lower intraocular pressure after treatment than those who had received the drops. The SLT patients also needed less follow up treatment than the other test group, such as glaucoma surgery and cataract extractions.
The lead researcher on the study Mr Gus Gazzard, consultant ophthalmologist and glaucoma service director, said:
“In this study, we have shown that a simple, safe, pain-free laser treatment not only works better than eye-drops at preventing glaucoma from deteriorating but also costs the NHS less. These results strongly suggest that laser should be the first treatment for glaucoma in all newly diagnosed patients and will provoke further interest in its use in patients who are already on treatment.”
The trial was held across the NIHR Biomedical Research Facility (BRF) at Moorfields and UCL and with the support of the PRIMENT clinical trials unit at UCL. An ongoing follow up study, due to conclude in 2020 will provide more information on the long-term effects.