National Geographic : 1992 Nov
Germany treating cataracts by jabbing the eye with a pencil-like instrument, a procedure that might sometimes jar the lens from the protec tive capsule surrounding it and restore some vision but always generated intense pain. Bartisch published a compendium of ophthal mology in 1583 that contains a woodcut illus trating the state of anesthetics-a patient's arms and legs are tied to a chair. In the modern, virtually painless method, a needle inserted behind the eye deadens and immobilizes it while the patient remains con scious. At the Wilmer Institute I watched Har ry Quigley anesthetize Esther Morse of York, Pennsylvania, for cataract and glaucoma sur gery. Her right eye, magnified 30 times by the surgical microscopes, assumed the dimensions of a small planet. I felt like a visitor from Lilli put as Quigley made tiny incisions to create a trapdoor-like flap on the white of her eye near the upper eyelid, perforated the tissue beneath the flap to relieve the pressure of glaucoma, and sutured the trapdoor with wisps of nylon thin as eyelashes. To remove the cataract-marred lens, Quig ley made another tiny cut. "Now with a little pressure I'll pop it right out," he said to me, and the jelly-bean-size lens, brown with age, slid out. "Take the wrinkles too, doctor," said the attentive Mrs. Morse. Promising to do his best, Quigley inserted a new plastic lens.