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Surgeons Use Tooth As Implant To Restore Blind Man’s Sight

Ian Tibbets (Photo: video.perthnow.com.au)
Ian Tibbets (Photo: video.perthnow.com.au)

A blind man finally gets his eyesight back after undergoing a surgical implant using one of his teeth to restore his sight.

Ian Tibbetts, 43 years old and a former forklift truck driver, had an accident 16-years ago when he was struck by a piece of an oven’s scrap metal, damaging his right eye’s cornea in six places. He was able to go back to work when the wound healed, but completely lost the sight in in his right eye in 1998. Then a year later, due to a flurry of infections, his left eye could no longer see, which rendered him completely blind.

Osteo-odonto-keratoprothsesis (OOKP) Surgery

“I would do anything to get some sight back. I had to try something. I said anything is better than what it was,” Tibbett said.

So when he heard of a revolutionary procedure called osteo-odonto-keratoprothsesis (OOKP) surgery, he sought the help of the only surgeon performing the said procedure and underwent operation in December 2012.

Tibbetts, who is from Telford, Shropshire decided to have the revolutionary surgery when everything else he tried failed.

Dr. Christopher Liu, a professor at Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, is the only surgeon who performs the said procedure on only five patients every year.  “OOKP is not guaranteed to restore sight, but it does have a high success rate,” said Dr. Liu.

“Patients who have the surgery are often able to see immediately and the quality of sight can be extraordinary good. It is a complex procedure and takes a good five years to master it,” he added.

The surgery is done by extracting a tooth and some bone from the patient’s mouth, molding it and inserting a lens through it then implanting it into the eye. The tooth and lens will be placed  in a pouch taken from the flesh under the non-operative eye, while a flap of skin is cut from the inside of the cheek and sewn on to the front of the eye due to receive the tooth.

The said treatment is only performed to patients with severe corneal scarring that cannot be corrected, or for specific conditions of blindness.

The OOKP procedure may sound rare, but is not relatively new. It was refined and improved in 1960 by Giancarlo Falcinelli, an Italian Professor and surgeon.

A tooth for  an eye – a glimpse of hope for the blind

After the operation, Ian Tibbetts say he has got his independence back now and he could look after his twin kids, whom he has  seen only for the first time after five years.

“I had to actually learn to tell them apart by their voices. I could tell whichever one it was by the way they spoke and sometimes by how  quickly they moved. I had a picture in my head of what they looked like, but they were better. I’m a bit biased there,” said the joyful father.

He said, since the sight won’t last forever, he is taking each moment and each day as it comes and appreciating it again now that he has gained his eye sight back.

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