ABC30 ORIGINAL: State-of-the-art procedure helping those with cataracts in the Central Valley

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A revolution in eye surgery is now available and it's changing the lives of patients across Central California.

A Visalia medical center is the first in the Valley to offer the state-of-the-art technique that combines a laser with a camera to deliver a 3-D view of the procedure, right before the doctor's eyes.

Cheri Robertson of Visalia can now keep her eye on the ball, but her golf game wasn't always up to par.

"I was constantly like, where did my ball go? I couldn't see it. I couldn't see anybody else's ball," said Roberston.

Cheri developed a cataract in her left eye, in which the lens becomes cloudy, over time.

She knew surgery was imminent. Then her doctor told her she was a candidate for the latest technique that could give her the best results -- freedom from glasses or contacts.

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"He advised me to use the laser because it was more precise and he could see my eye," said Cheri. "It's like really big so he could see exactly what he was doing and I was going to have better luck with maybe not wearing glasses later."

Doctor Michael Boone at Eye Surgical and Medical Associates in Visalia, says the combination of a laser and a state of the art camera is taking cataract surgery to the next level.

"I can visualize my surgery better be safer that way actually quicker as well," said Dr. Boone.

Dr. Boone gave us exclusive access into the OR to see the technique for ourselves.

First, the patient undergoes a laser procedure that breaks up the cataract before removal. The patient does not feel any pain during the process, that takes only minutes.

Then Dr. Boone preps for surgery to remove the cataract and replace it with a lens implant.

The small area of the eye is magnified on a big screen through the NGENUITY 3-D Visualization System, a camera about the size of a small gift box.

The detail and the 3D magnification allow the doctor to work with unprecedented precision, improving patient safety.

"To be able to see the back part of the cataract while I'm working on the front part of the cataract is actually huge because the number one complication of cataract surgery is the breaking of the capsule on the backside of the cataract," said Dr. Boone.

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Dr. Boone removes the cataract with a tiny vacuum and then he places the implanted lens into the eye. The 3-D magnified view allows him to position it perfectly, which is critical when implanting a multi-focal lens that corrects both vision and astigmatism.

In about half an hour the procedure is done.

"I can do such a better job now of not only removing that cloudy lens and helping someone see better but I can really tackle the eyeglass issues as well," said Dr. Boone.

Cheri is seeing 20/20 now, and her golf game?

"It's improving. I'm going to tell you that anyway!" said Roberston. "It's like 20 years go. It's a new lease on life."

And that's better than a hole in one.

Many people with cataracts are in their 70's and 80's, but Dr. Boone has treated patients in their 40's and 50's.

Since the NGENUITY system is part of cataract surgery, it's covered by insurance and the Visalia office does not charge "extra" for the use of the technology in a patient's procedure.
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