A gift to the QEII Foundation has given Ted Stenton and his wife Holly the prospect of helping thousands of people across the Maritimes while also recognizing the necessary and great work that is done at the QEII Health Sciences Centre’s ophthalmology department.
An Oculus Pentacam AXL Wave — the first in Atlantic Canada and soon to arrive at the QEII — will greatly improve the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders affecting the cornea, the clear outer layer at the front of the eye, and dramatically reduce the number of patients requiring difficult corneal transplants.
Last year in Halifax, Dr. Darrell Lewis, an ophthalmologist and cornea specialist, and his colleagues at the QEII performed 230 corneal transplants on patients from the Maritimes.
“The Oculus Pentacam AXL Wave is the industry leader in looking for a condition called keratoconus,” says Dr. Lewis. “It is a frequent condition that we see in patients and it often requires a corneal transplant.”
Keratoconus occurs when the cornea thins and gradually bulges outward into a cone shape, often causing blurred vision. By detecting keratoconus earlier, with the help of the Oculus Pentacam AXL Wave, QEII eye specialists will be better able to stabilize the condition before a transplant is required.
“The Pentacam revolutionizes the way these patients are taken care of through early detection,” says Dr. Lewis.
Undergoing a corneal transplant is a long, hard process for patients. Sixteen stitches are placed on the surface of the eye and patients often undergo 18 months of recovery before they can see well again.
“It really is a big deal to go through a corneal transplant. It’s really a nice gift that there are going to be fewer patients that need it,” says Dr. Lewis.
The Oculus Pentacam AXL Wave’s technology is new for the QEII’s ophthalmology department. It exceeds the capabilities of the QEII’s current equipment, the optical coherence tomography (OCT), which is a non-invasive imaging test.
“The wave portion of it adds new diagnostic capabilities that we never had before,” says Dr. Lewis. “It is actually three technologies built into one.”
It works by mapping the cornea and the eye. Using tomography, the imaging by sections with a penetrating wave, the technology allows specialists to look at corneal thickness, elevations and depressions.
“It is very impressive technology. It gives accurate information very quickly that we can’t obtain with other devices. We’re very excited to be able to have this technology,” says Dr. Marcelo Nicolela, head of ophthalmology at the QEII. “It will allow for early diagnosis of cornea diseases and planning for difficult surgeries in patients who have challenging diseases.”
Adding the Oculus Pentacam AXL Wave to the ophthalmology team’s diagnostic and planning tool kit will also enhance research at the QEII. The new technology will be integral to any studies on keratoconus that are conducted, says Dr. Lewis.
It will also become a critical component in how specialists fit specialized contact lenses for patients who come to the QEII’s eye clinic from throughout the Maritimes. The images generated from the Oculus Pentacam AXL Wave will make it easier for the eye clinic to modify and partially manufacture contact lenses considered the most difficult to fit.
Ted and Holly are elated that their generous donation will directly provide QEII eye care specialists, like Dr. Lewis, with advanced technology that will allow them to better help patients and strengthen eye care across the Maritimes.
“Dr. Darrell Lewis is inspirational. He is clearly patient focused,” says Ted. “The whole department is just spectacular.”
For Dr. Lewis, it’s not every day he has patients giving thanks in such a meaningful and beneficial way.
“I am quite honoured that they were interested in donating to the corneal services at the QEII,” he says. “It’s quite a special thing for me.”