Kunal Parikh, PhD; Joshua de Souza, MSE; Shameema Sikder, MD | Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
Awardee Year: 2023
Globally, 17 M people are blind and 83.5 M have moderate-to-severe visual impairment due to cataracts, which are primarily a disease of aging. Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness and account for more than 90% of the total disability adjusted life years in low- and middle-income countries where reduced income, increased ultraviolet radiation, and lack of access to treatment has led to a disproportionate burden of cataracts. Cataract surgery is a simple, 15-minute procedure which almost immediately restores an individual’s vision, and has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of dementia and improve physical and mental health, income, productivity, quality of life, and life expectancy. However, the current gold standard of phacoemulsification has high costs and training burden, requires potentially damaging ultrasonic energy, and has limited utility for patients with mature cataracts. Manual approaches to cataract surgery have lower costs and are suitable for mature cataracts, but require a larger incision and lead to significantly worse visual outcomes, causing inequity and reduced patient acceptability. We propose development of an inexpensive, manual, handheld cataract fragmentation device that eliminates the need for capital equipment and ultrasonic energy and is capable of safely fragmenting mature cataracts. By achieving manual cataract fragmentation and removal through a 3 mm incision, the system will provide outcomes comparable to the current gold standard, fit into the existing training and surgical workflow, and improve accessibility of cataract surgery.