Swedish is First Seattle-Area Hospital to Begin Offering New Surgery that Treats End-Stage Glaucoma

Swedish is First Seattle-Area Hospital to Begin Offering New Surgery that Treats End-Stage Glaucoma with Greater Precision

SEATTLE, March 22, 2004 - Surgeons at Swedish Medical Center's Eye Center recently became the first providers in the Greater Seattle area to begin offering a new laser treatment for end-stage glaucoma.

Glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve, is the leading cause of preventable vision loss in the United States and affects more than 2 million Americans over the age of 40. But now, for the first time, local eye surgeons are able to see the tissue they are treating, thanks to the new procedure called Endoscopic CycloPhotocoagulation (ECP).

The procedure uses a tiny camera, laser and other small surgical instruments to make extremely precise incisions and apply laser energy directly to the problem area. With its reach of 180 to 270 degrees, the surgical instrumentation allows surgeons to make just one or two two-millimeter incisions in the peripheral cornea to access the affected tissue.

"ECP is used to treat certain types of glaucoma, particularly difficult cases that don't respond well to traditional treatments or conventional surgery," says Murray Johnstone, M.D., a Swedish-affiliated glaucoma specialist. "While it isn't the treatment of choice for all patients with glaucoma, ECP is still a breakthrough in the world of eye surgery."

Earlier this year, Swedish Medical Center became the first Seattle-area hospital to begin offering ECP, which reduces the eye pressure that can damage the optic nerve and lead to blindness.

"Because we can see the tissue during treatment, we can be very selective and controlled with the application, both in terms of location and intensity," says Howard Barneby, M.D., a Swedish-affiliated ophthalmologist who specializes in glaucoma.

ECP requires anesthesia and typically takes 10 to 20 minutes per eye. In terms of its effectiveness, ECP appears to be equal to or greater than that of other surgical techniques in eyes that do not respond well to conventional glaucoma surgery. Clinical findings over the past five years have shown ECP to lower pressure inside the eye, reduce reliance on medication and control the progression of glaucoma. Besides reliable long-term results, studies also found that patients experienced minimal pain and few side effects or complications.

The Swedish Eye Center, which is located on Swedish Medical Center's First Hill Campus, is one of the largest hospital-based eye-surgery centers on the West Coast, performing more than 4,000 cases per year.

People suffering from glaucoma who are wondering whether ECP might be an appropriate procedure for themselves are encouraged to consult with their ophthalmologist. If warranted, people can then call 1-800-SWEDISH (1-800-793-3474) for a free referral to a Swedish-affiliated eye surgeon who performs ECP. And for more information about the procedure, click here.


Swedish Medical Center is the largest, most comprehensive, nonprofit health provider in the Pacific Northwest. It is comprised of three hospital campuses, Swedish Home Care Services and Swedish Physicians - a network of 11 primary-care clinics. In addition to general medical and surgical care, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing specialized treatment in areas such as cardiac care, oncology, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, neurological care, sleep medicine, pediatrics, organ transplantation and clinical research. For more information, visit www.swedish.org

Media Coverage

  • To read the transcript of a story about ECP that KOMO Television (channel 4; ABC) aired March 23, click here.
  • To read an article about ECP that ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on March 25, click here.
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