In his newly released book, Practical Astigmatism — Planning and Analysis, NewVision Clinics founder and world-leading refractive and cataract surgeon Dr Noel Alpins AM explains why the surgical correction of astigmatism is the last frontier to optimising visual outcomes for patients.
Astigmatism is a common eye condition that causes blurred vision at both near and far distances. It is estimated that 1.3 million Australians are affected by astigmatism, making it the third most common adult eye condition in the country (after long-sightedness and short-sightedness).
Astigmatism is caused by an ovalness in the curvature of the front of the eye—the cornea. If you have astigmatism, your cornea is shaped more like an egg than a tennis ball, affecting the way light is refracted onto your retina and how images are seen. If you have an irregularly shaped cornea, the light doesn’t focus correctly on the retina and the image you see is blurred.
“If astigmatism did not exist, refractive surgery to correct myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (long-sightedness) would be relatively easy,” Dr Alpins writes in this comprehensive guide to the Alpins Method—his internationally renowned method for analysing astigmatism.
“The practitioner would need only flatten (in the case of myopia) or steepen (in the case of hyperopia) corneal curvature to the proper degree to produce a focused image on the patient’s retina.”
If this were the case, he says the planning, performance and analysis of refractive surgery would be greatly simplified.
“Astigmatism, however, does exist, and it makes refractive, corneal and cataract/intraocular lens (IOL) surgery exponentially more complicated,” he writes.
Dr Alpins began performing refractive eye surgery in 1985 and was one of the first ophthalmologists in Victoria to start performing laser vision correction in 1991.
He has dedicated more than two decades to making the treatment of astigmatism less complicated and the outcomes for patients better by developing a novel method to analysing astigmatism.
“Astigmatism became a major preoccupation of mine in the 1980s,” Dr Alpins explains. “I was vexed by the difficulty in recording and analysing results in patients with astigmatism, as well as by the contradictory approaches between incisional procedures and, later in the 1990s, at its inception, the laser.”
It was his preoccupation with the problem of analysing astigmatism that led Dr Alpins to developing the internationally-recognised Alpins Method, which uses vector mathematics to determine the effectiveness of correcting astigmatism by laser refractive surgery as well as incisional cataract surgery.
The Alpins Method, which he has further developed and refined over the years, focuses on analysing refractive and corneal astigmatism parameters and using the results in future surgery to improve visual outcomes.
Widely recognised as a significant breakthrough in astigmatism analysis, the Alpins Method has since been adopted by leading peer reviewed journals, as well as the American National Standards Institute, as a standard for reporting astigmatism results.
Dr Alpins also developed software that incorporates the Alpins Method of astigmatism analysis ASSORT®, (Alpins Statistical System for Ophthalmic Refractive Surgery Techniques) that is now used to plan, develop and analyse laser eye surgery around the world.
This pioneering work has seen Dr Alpins widely recognised as a world-leader in the fight against astigmatism and NewVision Clinics the preferred clinic for treating astigmatism in Australia.
“Our practice has been a very popular one not only because we provide excellent service and surgery but because our results are actually very good for treating astigmatism—our area of special expertise,” Dr Alpins says.
The most recent validation of Dr Alpins’ work comes in the form of a soon-to-be-published scientific paper by Oman corneal surgeon Dr Maria Arbelaez, who used the Alpins Method to treat astigmatism in 200 patients with outstanding results.
In her paper, Dr Arbelaez showed that the Alpins Method gave better visual results and lessened astigmatism overall, than conventional techniques.
“I’ve been using this method for my own patients at NewVision Clinics for over 20 years and I know my patients have benefitted significantly from this approach, but it is always very gratifying when other leading, independent surgeons can prove and present such impressive results,” Dr Alpins said.
Dr Alpins’ book, Practical Astigmatism — Planning and Analysis, is now available
To find out more about laser eye surgery at NewVision Clinics, please get in touch with the friendly team on 1800 20 20 20.
Byline: Rachel Wells is an experienced journalist, who spent 15 years as a reporter with The Age and The Sunday Age.