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Today's Practice | Mar 2012

5 Questions With Imola Ratkay-Traub, MD, PhD

1. What is your greatest motivator to practice refractive surgery?

I was motivated to choose a career in medicine by a desire to help and cure people. At the same time, I want to be successful and recognized for my work. Refractive surgery is a rewarding field because these two aspects are closely related. I am also motivated to make patients content and happy by improving their vision, which facilitates everyday life. With laser surgery, I can provide my patients immediate results and quality improvements in both their vision and lives.

2. What surgical cases do you find most enjoyable to perform and rewarding once successfully completed?

I have been practicing refractive surgery since 1992. I commenced with research at the Ophthalmology Clinic of Szeged, Hungary, and continued at the University Clinics of Münster, Germany, and Szeged. I then applied my research experiences in a private practice setting in Budapest. I have performed more than 17,000 PRK, LASEK, phototherapeutic keratectomy, and LASIK surgeries with a surface excimer laser, and thus these procedures are a part of my daily routine. I was one of the first ophthalmologists to introduce LASIK procedures in Hungary. My greatest source of delight and excitement is to successfully resolve a complicated case and give that patient full vision.

3. What do you consider to be the most exciting surgical development that you have been a part of and why?

I am most proud of being a part of the first team in the world to develop application of the femtosecond laser for corneal surgery. I tested the femtosecond laser in animal experiments in 1997 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and conducted human trials between 1998 and 2000 in Budapest. We succeeded in developing a variety of surgical technologies, including cutting LASIK flaps, cutting tunnels for intrastromal corneal ring segment (ICRS) insertion, intrastromal ablation, and femtosecond LASIK, in which high myopia is corrected by cutting lenses out of corneal stroma. Based on our results, use of a femtosecond laser to create corneal flaps and tunnels for femtosecond LASIK and ICRS surgery with the IntraLase (now Abbott Medical Optics Inc.) was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. Femtosecond LASIK has become one of the most successful and widely performed interventions in refractive surgery.

4. Tell us about your involvement in studies on presbyopia.

Surgical solutions for presbyopia represent an exciting area in ophthalmic research. From 2002 to 2003, I was involved in research that studied the effects of the femtosecond laser on the crystalline lens. Currently, we are evaluating the results of applying intrastromal corneal inlays in patients with presbyopia, specifically the Vue+ inlay (ReVision Optics). The results to date are highly promising for both emmetropic patients and for those who undergo concurrent LASIK for the correction of hyperopia. Typically, the treated nondominant eye provides good functional near vision with only a small compromise for distance vision. The dominant eye is targeted for emmetropia, and functional distance vision is barely affected. As the corneal surface becomes multifocal, intermediate vision is also improved so that patients usually have a full range of vision. ReVision Optics is reportedly about to release a modified delivery device that will make surgery more straightforward. The procedure will then be similar in duration and difficulty to a LASIK case.

5. If you were not an ophthalmologist, what profession would you pursue?

When choosing a career, I was interested in becoming both a classical singer and a practicioner of medical science. However, my decision to be a physician is justified because I cannot imagine myself as anything other than a medical specialist. My love for classical music and jazz, hiking and travelling have remained hobbies, making my life complete and balancing the hard work of every day.