What's New A surgically implantable lens just approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers moderate to severely nearsighted adults who are not candidates for Lasik surgery another option besides glasses or contacts. The intraocular Verisyse lens is designed for those whose vision is between -5 and -20 diopters. (That's about 20/400 to 20/10,000 vision; at -5, patients are "possibly not even seeing the big E" on an eye chart, said Jeffrey L. Weaver of the American Optometric Association.) Unlike replacements for cataract-clouded lenses, the new devices are implanted in front of the natural lens, leaving it and the cornea intact. "It opens up the possibility of vision correction for patients who can't have other types of procedures done," said Jay Lustbader, ophthalmology professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

The Good Over the past 13 years 150,000 patients, most in Europe or U.S. clinical trials, have received implants, marketed by Advanced Medical Optics and Ophtec USA. In 662 U.S. implant patients, Ophtec reported that 92 percent had at least 20/40 vision, and 44 percent at least 20/20 vision three years later.

The Rub Unlike Lasik, Verisyse doesn't correct astigmatisms, so patients may still need glasses after the procedure. Some patients lost 1.8 percent per year of their endothelial cells (cells that help keep the cornea clear) over the three years studied. The long-term effect of that loss is not known. The FDA recommended that the implants be used only in patients whose endothelial cells are "dense enough to withstand some loss over time." Other complications: retinal detachment (0.6 percent), cataract development (0.6 percent) and corneal swelling (0.4 percent). All eye surgeries carry infection risks. The implants cost about $1,000 per lens, Trenary said, plus doctors' fees and surgical charges; insurance does not cover the procedure.

-- January W. Payne