A team of doctors at Frimley Health have been the first to perform a new groundbreaking eye operation for patients on the NHS - proven to provide improvements in vision.

The procedure, which is a type of corneal implant has been successfully performed by consultant ophthalmologist, Mr Thomas Poole, with his colleague Miss Handin Lee on four patients within the last two months.

With a worldwide shortage of donated human corneas and up to a two year waiting list for transplants in the UK, patients have said that this surgery is revolutionary.

Patient Cecil Farley, 91, from Chobham in Woking said: “I’m really glad I had the procedure as I had no vision in my right eye at all. I’d previously had a human graft which failed so I was very happy to be the first patient to receive an artificial cornea.

“My vision in that eye is slowly improving, it can take up to  a year to work fully but my sight is getting clearer week by week. I’ve been married for 63 years and can still see my wife so I’m hoping the vision will continue to progress.”

The artificial cornea, called EndoArt®, was designed and developed by ophthalmological medical device company EyeYon Medical. The synthetic implant has a similar appearance to a contact lens and was created to treat corneal oedema (swelling of the cornea), a problem of several eye diseases.

Charles Holmes, Chief Commercial Officer, EyeYon Medical said: “EndoArt® is the first artificial endothelial layer, a promising treatment for select eyes with chronic corneal oedema. EndoArt® represents a new hope to patients who are suffering from chronic corneal oedema as an alternative to human tissue.” 

Tom Poole, the consultant ophthalmologist who performed the original procedure explained: “There is a delay in patients getting treatment because of the national shortage of available corneas. In selected cases, artificial corneas could be used giving patients quicker access to treatment and therefore improved sight.

“The artificial cornea has several advantages: there is no rejection risk as in human corneal grafts, no risk of disease transmission, and if successful, no long-term future risk of graft failure, which can affect human donor corneas. The procedure is minimally invasive, which reduces the risk of further injury to the fragile eye tissue.

“This is a very exciting step forwards in improving the vision of some of our patients with corneal disease who might otherwise face a long wait for a human cornea. It is early days for this new artificial cornea, with only 200 implanted worldwide to date, so we are using it in eyes with other comorbidities to start with, but I can see a future where an artificial cornea becomes standard treatment for all corneas with endothelial disease.”