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NYU Highlights Indian Hospital's Eco-Friendly Cataract Surgery Methods


Healthcare officials are praising one hospital in southern India for its commitment to environmental sustainability. A new NYU School of Medicine study found that India's Aravind Eye Care System drastically reduced carbon emissions using a novel approach to cataract surgery.

Researchers tracked how eye surgeons at Aravind from 2014 to 2015. In their report, NYU professors say Aravind was able to conserve medical equipment and reduce its global footprint by re-using sterilized stainless steel instruments, prescribing multi-use pharmaceuticals, performing quicker cataract surgeries, and encouraging doctors to re-use gowns, caps, and blankets.

In comparison with the United Kingdom, India's Aravind was by far more eco-friendly. Scientists say Aravind only emitted six kilograms of carbon dioxide for each cataract surgery. By comparison, one cataract procedure in the UK emitted 160 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

A few of the key measures NYU researchers looked into include the amount of ozone depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, and the amount of air pollutants each cataract surgery at Aravind released. They found that Aravind released 96 percent less carbon than the UK over the course of this study.

The World Health Organization (WHO) encouraged hospitals like Aravind to develop more eco-friendly and efficient ways of combatting the global cataract epidemic. India has teamed up with the WHO's Vision 2020 program, which aims to reduce the number of people unnecessarily blinded by cataracts to zero.

Study authors from NYU believe Aravind's solutions are essential for the future of cataract surgery. If all the hospitals in India were to adopt Aravind's methods, they estimate that hospitals would release greenhouse gases from 9,000 passenger vehicles' yearly mileage by 2020. By contrast, if Indian hospitals followed the UK's methods, they would release the equivalent of 250,000 passenger vehicles in greenhouse gases.

Cataracts are the top cause of preventable blindness around the world. The World Cataract Foundation estimates that 25 million people are blind due to untreated cataracts. This number is only expected to rise by 1.5 million people annually. About 90 percent of people blinded by cataracts are in developing nations.

Basically, a cataract is a clouding over of the eye's inner lens. Since it usually takes years for cataracts to form, it's rare for patients to notice any drastic visual changes till the disease has progressed a great deal. A typical symptom of cataracts is blurred vision.

Cataract surgery involves replacing a person's cloudy lens with a clear artificial lens. Doctors recommend people over 45 get a yearly eye check-up to catch cataracts as early as possible.

Since cataract surgery is an extremely common procedure, doctors want to be sure they're doing it in the most eco-friendly way possible. NYU professors believe Aravind's methods could be applied in other nations to reduce the global carbon footprint.

Anyone interested in reading more about Aravind can check out NYU's report in the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery. This study was entitled, "Cataract surgery and environmental sustainability: Waste and lifecycle assessment of phacoemulsification at a private healthcare facility."

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