Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Ipswich Surgeon Pioneer of New Corneal Transplant; Dr Andrew Apel Is Giving Back Vision to Patients through an Innovative and Fiddly Technique, Writes Peter Foley

Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Ipswich Surgeon Pioneer of New Corneal Transplant; Dr Andrew Apel Is Giving Back Vision to Patients through an Innovative and Fiddly Technique, Writes Peter Foley

Article excerpt

IMAGINE trying to unfold a section of gladwrap in a bowl of water. Now, imagine you have to unroll a piece of gladwrap about a centimetre wide in a bowl of water the size of your eyeball.

Little wonder, perhaps, that Ipswich doctor Andrew Apel is the only eye surgeon in the Ipswich area performing corneal transplants.

The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped window covering the front of the eye that provides two-thirds of the eyeas focusing power.

Dr Apel has been an eye surgeon for more than 16 years and has been working out of his Ipswich rooms since 2009.

At the Ipswich Day Hospital, he performs the majority of eye procedures in Queensland and has pioneered new surgical techniques to treat eye disease.

Corneal transplants are performed to improve vision, to preserve the

eye through reconstructing the cornea or to treat the eye after disease or trauma.

Almost 450 corneal transplants are performed in Queensland each year and the success rate has risen

dramatically because of technological advances such as less irritating

sutures, which are often finer than

a human hair, and the surgical

microscope.

Corneal transplantation has been performed successfully since 1905 but over the last decade it has evolved, allowing surgeons to provide newer techniques.

Traditional corneal transplantation, known as Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK), involved replacing the full thickness of the cornea regardless of the layer that was diseased.

Descemetas Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) is a new technique being pioneered in Ipswich by Dr Apel.

DMEK involves replacing only the diseased part of the cornea with similar healthy donor tissue, resulting in fewer complications and virtually no rejection.

Dr Apel has been successfully performing the DMEK procedure on patients suffering from corneal disorders such as Fuchsa dystrophy, which would result in swelling and blistering and painful loss of vision if left untreated.

aWe do a number of things here but my area of training and expertise is in corneal transplantation,a Dr Apel said. aTraditionally, what weave done is a full thickness transplant where you cut the whole centre out of the cornea and stitch it again.

aNow what we can offer is just taking the back layer off the cornea and putting a new back layer on. Itas a significant change in the surgery time, time for visual recovery and the complexity.

aSo thatas kind of the new thing on the block over the last few years and Iam the only one in Ipswich who does corneal transplantation.a

He spent two years in Toronto studying how to do it but it was worth it, he said, because the results were quicker and better.

aIt used to be a case of 12 to 18 months to get your vision back to normal; now itas two to three months,a he said. …

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