New implant for glaucoma sufferers in SA

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The MircoShunt encapsulated in a viewing box
The MircoShunt encapsulated in a viewing box

Research shows that about 5% of people older than 40 in South Africa suffer from glaucoma, an eye condition which causes irreversible loss of vision. South Africans suffer from more common, serious and complicated glaucoma than patients in the developed world. Glaucoma remains the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

The MicroShunt implant, a procedure used overseas and now also available in South Africa, helps to effectively regulate pressure in the eye.

Dr Daemon McClunan, an ophthalmologist at the Atlantic Eye Specialist Centre in Cape Town, successfully performed the first seven MicroShunt implants on the 12th of April 2022 at the New Era Health Day Hospital as part of the first group of devices implanted by a select group of surgeons in each province in South Africa.

The implant is a minimally invasive device that controls and manages glaucoma in an attempt to eradicate the need for long-term medication. According to Dr McClunan, this procedure comprises implanting a micro-device, developed to be a safer alternative to traditional glaucoma surgery, into the front part of the eye.

Dr McClunan attending the briefing meeting prior t
Dr McClunan attending the briefing meeting prior to surgery at the Atlantic Eye Centre practice
MicroShunt implant seen under a microscope
MicroShunt implant seen under a microscope
Lobby entrance to the New Era Day Hospital where p
Lobby entrance to the New Era Day Hospital where patients are welcomed
Dr McClunan preparing to insert the MicroShunt
Dr McClunan preparing to insert the MicroShunt

Purpose of this treatment

Dr McClunan explains that the build-up of fluid pressure in the eye can lead to permanent damage to the optic nerve and this often leads to blindness. This condition is known as glaucoma. The implantation of the MicroShunt device can regulate the pressure in the eye and prevent glaucoma.

"The procedure takes about 15 to 30 minutes during which we create a 1,2mm tunnel in the wall of the eye to reach the front section where the fluid builds up. The MicroShunt is then implanted to drain the fluid from this area."

As stated by Dr Bill Nortjé, president of the South African Glaucoma Society (SAGS), this device is a special tube about 8mm in length. "It serves as an outlet-system for fluid in a controlled, safe way. Also, this technique causes less bleeding in the eye generally compared to other surgeries."

Experienced medical personnel

According to Dr McClunan, the device can only be implanted by an ophthalmologist with experience in glaucoma surgery who is trained to carry out the MicroShunt implant.

During the procedure, there will be an anaesthetist present as well as a trained theatre team.

The clinical manager, Linda Gebhardt, at New Era Day Hospital elaborates: “The continuous role of the nursing staff from admission is equally important for the preparation and after-care of the patient. This involves preparation in accordance with the required regime and, importantly, patient reassurance, guidance, attention and after-care as well as providing the necessary information about self-care following discharge.”

Dr McClunan and his theatre assistant, sister Doro
Dr McClunan and his theatre assistant, sister Dorothy Malgas, prepare the surgical instruments and implants prior to surgery
Dr McClunan performs microsurgery via a microscope
Dr McClunan performs microsurgery via a microscope
After surgery the patient is taken to the recovery
After surgery the patient is taken to the recovery room of the New Era Day Hospital operating theatre

Who would receive it?

The MicroShunt is for use in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma where medication and/or laser treatments have failed. Recovery takes place within a week as it is a minimally invasive procedure.

Benefits over other surgeries

The benefits, as advised by Dr McClunan, include:

  • Has fewer complications.
  • Is less invasive.
  • Comprises a simplified technique.
  • Is highly effective.
  • Reduces the need for long term medication.
  • Decreases possible early and late complications.

It is important to note that your glaucoma surgeon will discuss the procedure with you during a consultation and will ensure you receive the best treatment option suited to your needs.

Steps to the MircoShunt procedure
Steps to the MircoShunt procedure


Apart from the cost of the surgical procedure, there is also the cost of the device. Most medical funds cover the cost of the procedure as well as the device, says Dr McClunan.

Private packages are offered to patients who are not covered by a medical fund, so make enquiries at the hospital concerned or contact New Era Health Day Hospital for more information.

Patient feedback after having the implant procedure:

  • Rosa Ferrini: "Outstanding experience, very professional."
  • Martha Errens: "My eye is fantastic, I love the implant, excellent service and the staff was very helpful.  Everything was explained in detail - stress-free. My eye is much better."
  • Nigel Cloete: "Happy with the implant and the recovery was excellent! My experience of the staff and doctor was the best ever."

View all Google reviews for Atlantic Eye Centre here

New Era Health Day Hospital

New Era Health Day Hospital is a private day hospital that carries out all disciplines under expert, professional, safe and affordable care. A wide spectrum of specialised doctors like ophthalmologists, a plastic surgeon, orthopaedist, dentist, chiropractor, and neurologist as well as a pain clinic can be found here. A pharmacy and radiology department on the premises rounds the hospital off.

Atlantic Eye Specialist Centre

Our specialist ophthalmologists at the Atlantic Eye Centre, located in the Cape Town Foreshore and Blaauwberg areas, are here to assist with all your eye health-related concerns. Our services encompass a broad set of cutting-edge eye procedures that include laser-guided cataract surgery, retinal surgery, minimally invasive glaucoma surgery, functional and aesthetic oculoplastics and paediatric ophthalmology. Our leading specialists are supported by a team of highly qualified ophthalmic technicians and an inhouse dietician and aesthetician. Our goal is to ensure you receive a world class eye health experience.

This post and content is sponsored, written and provided by New Era Health Day Hospital & The Atlantic Eye Specialist Centre.

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