The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the iStent, the smallest medical implant ever, for use in combination with cataract surgery to treat glaucoma. The iStent, designed by optical equipment manufacturer Glaukos, is a small titanium tube that measures 1mm long, 0.33mm tall, and weighs just 60 micrograms. One symptom of open-angle glaucoma is that fluid in the eye fails to drain properly, causing pressure to build inside the eye which can damage the optic nerve. The iStent implant is designed to give the fluid a path to drain properly, ideally reducing intraocular pressure and preventing vision loss.
The FDA's review found that 68 percent of participants using the iStent reached the study's target pressure compared to 50 percent of participants who only had cataract surgery. The device encountered several surgical complications including the stent becoming blocked post-surgery, difficulty or failure implanting, trouble positioning the device, the implant touching the iris or cornea or even being dropped into the eye during surgery. No word yet on when the implants will be available for glaucoma treatments, but with the FDA's approval it is likely they will be coming soon.