I recently had the privilege of participating in a medical mission trip as an ophthalmologist to the island of Ebeye on the Marshall Islands. Most ophthalmology medical mission trips involve cataract (a clouding of the eye's lens resulting in impaired vision) surgery, using a manual or extracapsular technique, (an older surgical technique involving an incision about 3/8") as opposed to the United States where almost all cataract surgery is performed with ultrasound* utilizing a phacoemulsification machine. ("Phaco" -- a system that uses only a small incision on the side of the cornea, then an inserted probe emits ultrasound waves that soften and break up the clouded lens. After removing the old lens by suction, an artificial lens or "IOL", is permanently placed in the eye.) This technique and technology is usually not available in third world countries due to the significant costs involved.
However, we were blessed to be able to perform cataract surgery with phacoemulsification due to the generous donation of Alcon to Canvasback Missions of a phacoemulsification machine, accessories, and supplies. The machine we used was the 'Laureate', which is Alcon’s compact version of their 'Infiniti' machine sold in the United States. The 'Laureate' is only available in the international market. Despite its compact size, its performance demonstrated tremendous power, efficiency, chamber stability and safety. Our team was able to perform 192 eye surgeries, of which half were done on the 'Laureate' platform. Many of the cataracts were very dense and mature, yet the surgeries were performed with great efficiency and the outcomes were outstanding.
It was a real pleasure working with Kevin Creed and his staff. Alcon has donated the 'Laureate' machine, several hand pieces and enough kits to provide more than 100 surgeries.
Our team was grateful for the privilege of partnering together with Alcon and for their commitment in helping us to restore the precious gift of sight to so many people on the island of Ebeye.
Dr. Charles Ahn
*Ultrasound - High frequency sound waves used during cataract surgery to break up the eye's natural lens so that it can be easily removed.