The iris is the portion of the eye that provides the eye with its color and is unique to each individual. It serves to control the amount of light entering the eye. Absence or loss of the iris tissue of the eye can occur as a result of a congenital defect or as result of trauma or previous surgery. Individuals who lack an iris or who have an iris that cannot constrict properly often suffer from severe light sensitivity or photophobia. They may have significant glare at night time and often have impaired vision. The absence of the iris in one eye can be cosmetically disfiguring.
Currently in the U.S. there are no FDA approved artificial colored iris implants. However Dr. Pamel is one of a handful of surgeons across the country who is able to implant the Ophtec Artificial Iris Implant under a special compassionate use FDA trial. Patients' symptoms often resolve immediately and cosmetically the appearance of the eye with the artificial implant is often difficult to distinguish from a normal eye. (See photos below). The iris implants come in four colors: black, brown, blue and green. Opthec, Inc. cannot guarantee a perfect color match with the fellow eye.
Aniridia: This condition is a rare, bilateral hereditary absence of the iris. NYC aniridia patients often have some iris tissue but suffer from light sensitivity. The Ophtec Artificial Iris Implant can be used in patients with aniridia.
Previous eye surgery or iris trauma: Patients who have had prior eye surgery in which the iris has been damaged may be candidates for the iris implant. In addition patients who have sustained iris trauma causing loss of tissue can also be candidates for the iris implant.
The procedure is done as an outpatient surgery under local anesthetic. It can be done as a single procedure in which an incision is made into the limbus (the junction between the sclera or white part of the eye and the cornea or clear window of the eye) and the iris is inserted into the eye and sutured into position. Often it is done in combination with a cataract procedure, a lens implant procedure or a corneal transplant. The Ophtec Artificial Iris comes as an iris alone or as an iris with a lens implant in the center of the iris. The recovery will depend on the health of the eye prior to surgery but most often patients report a significant decrease in their light sensitivity early in the postoperative period. In addition, they notice a cosmetic improvement.
Photos of patients before (left hand column) and after (center column) iris implantation are seen below. The last two columns on the right isolate the operative eye before and after artificial iris implantation