Laser technique is first to arrive in Vicksburg

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2000

The Holmium LTK laser burns laser marks into the patient’s eyes that reshape the corneal curvature correcting hyperopia and presbyopia. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

In three seconds, old eyes are getting a new look with an advanced laser technique available in Vicksburg, the first in Mississippi.

“It’s the brand-new of the line and it’s used to perform the Holmium LTK,” said Dr. James Cook, who has purchased a Sunrise Hyperion for use at Cook Eye Clinic on Washington Street.

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The laser was delivered to Cook’s clinic Monday, and he performed the procedure on 14 eyes Tuesday.

Laser Thermal Keratoplasty is appropriate for people with low to moderate hyperopia, or farsightedness, and for those with presbyopia, a loss of the eye’s ability to focus that Cook called “old eyes.”

“The laser is mainly designed for people over 40,” the ophthalmologist said. “It will help with their distance and near vision.”

It’s the latest in a series of laser-based procedures for vision improvement developed over the past several years. Initially, techniques were pioneered to help those with severe vision impairments but today’s trend is toward improving the sight of people who don’t even wear corrective lenses.

Cook, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, said he underwent the procedure in Canada in 1995 to improve his own distance vision, and had it again last week in Rogers, Ark., to correct his near vision. “It works,” he said.

The procedure, which takes three seconds per eye, uses a beam of laser energy to gently reshape the cornea. “This procedure is nice because it’s no-touch,” Cook said. “There’s no cutting at all. It’s like tying an imaginary cord around the cornea” to steepen its shape.

The Holmium LTK, for which Cook charges $1,200 per eye, is also less expensive than other forms of laser vision correction, he said. “That’s probably lower,” he said, than other clinics offering the same procedure in Little Rock and Rogers, Ark., and Boca Raton and Fort Myers, Fla.

The machine can be either purchased or leased, and Cook bought his for $250,000. He said he believes it will pay for itself. “I feel like we’re going to do 50 to 100 eyes a month,” he said. “I feel like we’ll draw from all around the state.”

The Food and Drug Administration approved Sunrise Technologies’ Laser Thermal Keratoplasty system in July. Cook, who has practiced in Vicksburg since 1980, became certified to use the equipment at a July 29 training session in Chicago.