New laser shows promise in treating macular degeneration

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MEDFORD, Ore. (KOBI) — A breakthrough treatment for macular degeneration is being used on patients in the Rogue Valley. The Medford office using it is believed to be the only one West of the Mississippi.

“What we’re doing is we’re making a distant event — which is progression to advanced macular degeneration — more distant,” Dr. Philip Paden said.

Dr. Philip Paden has seen thousands of patients with macular degeneration over the years. When he heard of a new laser treatment that could help slow the disease’s progression, he couldn’t believe it.

“It was total disbelief,” Dr. Paden said, ” I didn’t believe it.”

But after doing his research, and speaking with the doctors who tested this new laser, Dr. Paden had to get on board. He says what makes the 2RT laser so unique, is that most lasers damage the retina.

“If it’s a 400-micron spot size, there’s 400 microns of damage to the retina.”

But this technology, which was tested in a clinical trial, actually allowed the eye to rejuvenate and therefore slowed the progression of vision loss from the eye disease 77%.

“The healthy cells divide, grow, slide and cover the defect,” Dr. Paden explains, which means, “If somebody were destined to lose their reading-driving vision in 5 years, they would lose their vision in 22 years.”

Up until now, the only treatment available was for patients who had entered advanced wet macular degeneration. The treatment is eye injections given as much as every month. This laser treatment aims to prevent patients from ever getting there, and the pain-free laser is applied only once every year.

“The safety is definitely there,” Dr. Paden says, “this study says the benefit is probably very impressive, and the patients [ask] me ‘what did you do?' ”

While it’s too soon to know whether Dr. Paden’s patients will yield the same results seen in the clinical trial, he’s hopeful they will because all the pieces scientifically fit together.

The only type of patient who would potentially benefit from this treatment is those with early dry macular degeneration — meaning they still have good vision but do have large drusen which are yellow fatty deposits under the retina. Right now the treatment is also so new it’s not covered by insurance. For perspective, Dr. Paden says the out of pocket cost for the once-a-year laser treatment is $2,000, which is the price of one monthly eye injection for those with advanced macular degeneration.


This story was originally reported by NBC affiliate KOBI.