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November 19, 1982

Light from surgical microscope may damage retina during eye surgery

JAMA. 1982;248(19):2417-2418. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330190005001

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Ophthalmologists may inadvertently injure patients' retinas during eye surgery, warns Joseph L. Calkins, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.

During a symposium on light toxicity at the recent joint meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the International Congress of Ophthalmology in San Francisco, Calkins said that the disturbing incidence of cystoid macular edema in patients who have undergone cataract surgery may possibly be the result of prolonged exposure to the light source in a surgical microscope.

In an interview with JAMA MEDICAL NEWS, Calkins cited studies indicating that 40% to 50% of routine cataract extractions are followed by cystoid macular edema detectable by fluorescein angiography shortly after surgery (Invest Ophthalmol 1975;14:68-72, Ann Ophthalmol 1971;3:1234-1240). "This condition often masks as normal postsurgical blurred vision," he explained. The tipoff comes when the blurring persists longer than it should.

He continued, "In most cases,