How a human-hair-sized stent saved Michael Rosen’s sight


Mr Vik Sharma, a consultant ophthalmologist, cataract and glaucoma specialist and clinical director of the London Ophthalmology Centre, on how the development of a new technique to fit a tiny Xen stent saved the eyesight of children’s author Michael Rosen after his serious bout of Covid

As a surgeon, I delight in seeing a good outcome for my patients. That joy becomes acute when circumstances threaten a person’s eyesight and I am able to save it. This is what happened when I treated former children’s laureate Michael Rosen last year in the midst of his Covid-19 hospitalisation.

Michael had already been through a serious and traumatic experience when he awoke from his coma and the first thing he noticed was a distinct fogginess in his left eye.

I was called into the Royal Free Hospital and immediately knew that if Michael was not treated in the next week or two, he could go blind. At the London Ophthalmology Centre, which is located at the Harley Street Specialist Hospital, we have developed a new less-invasive technique to improve the outcome for glaucoma patients. I was able to use this on Michael to improve his chances of recovery and speed up the healing process.

Michael Rosen & Mr Vik Sharma

Michael Rosen & Mr Vik Sharma

The traditional pathway
In the traditional treatment pathway for glaucoma, an ophthalmologist would initially prescribe drops to reduce the production of fluid and improve drainage. If this doesn’t work, a short laser treatment can be applied to open the drainage tube and release fluid. This procedure – known as a trabeculectomy – involves opening the tissue at the front of the eye. A flap is made underneath the eyelid, where a miniscule hole allows the fluid to drain away. The flap is then stitched up and closed. While a trabeculectomy will be successful in 80% of cases, scar tissue can form over the incision, causing the fluid to build up again. There can also be side effects, including blurred vision and possible loss of vision from a bleed in the eye, as well as a risk of infection.

When I treated Michael, I instead used the human-hair-sized Xen stent, fitted using a new technique that creates a new pathway through which the fluid can drain out, without any cuts and stitches. The revised and enhanced treatment to apply the Xen stent into the eye results in less scar tissue and faster healing times for patients, leading to better outcomes for the most serious cases of glaucoma.