Tiniest implant for the body helps save sight

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Doctors have hundreds of devices to implant in the human body.  Now the tiniest implant ever is helping some people avoid vision loss.

Looking at a penny, you see a speck above the date.  It's a tiny drain, and it's helping Pat Jacobs control glaucoma.

"I was pretty excited about it," said Jacobs.

She recently received the implant after glaucoma medications were irritating to her and not reducing the pressure enough in her eyes.  So she went to surgery to get the new metal device called iStent.  It's approved for people with glaucoma who also have cataracts.  First, Dr. Michael Stiles of Overland Park did the cataract procedure.  Then he needed a special magnifying glass, in addition to his microscope, to place the tiny stent.

"It allows us to bypass the trabecular meshwork where the largest amount of resistance to outflow is, and shunt the fluid directly down to the lower pathways," said the ophthalmologist.

By improving drainage, pressure is reduced in the eye.  The device is for people with mild to moderate glaucoma.  Those with more severe disease still need standard filtering surgery.  Dr. Stiles says while iStent costs more than other implants for glaucoma, the procedure has a lower risk of complications which means lower chances of more surgery being needed.

"So from that standpoint, there is some cost advantages, and plus if it reduces their medications," said Dr. Stiles.

In Jacobs' case, it didn't just reduce the need for eye drops.

"I don't have to do any eye drops now which is wonderful," said Jacobs.

Her vision is being saved with the help of an implant that's just a speck in the eye.

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