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NY medical team leads way for surgery on traumatic eye injuries

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Buffalo: NY medical team leads way for surgery on traumatic eye injuries
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Dr. Douglas Lazzarro is in charge of one of the leading medical teams in the country for restoring sight to traumatized eyes. Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

Dr. Douglas Lazzarro is no run of the mill eye doctor. As a professor and chairman of ophthalmology at Kings County Hospital Center and SUNY Downstate Medical Center he has a herculean task before him: How to save the sight of some 30,000 patients a year who are stabbed, shot or punched in the eye.

"We see much more higher incident of purposeful trauma in causing these ruptures," Lazzarro says. "But on the flip side we're able to salvage many of these eyes because we have a really good group of expert physicians."

Lazzarro's team is one of the best and busiest in the nation. They face some of the most complicated and challenging cases, particularly ruptured eyeballs that they have to mold back together.

Statistics from The American Community Survey show that about 2.5 million Americans suffer traumatic eye injuries every year and a significant number of patients go blind.

Lazzarro says his team uses a high tech multi-disciplinary approach to save vision after trauma.

"If they're not completely irreparably damaged from the initial injury we can actually put [the eye] back together and gain some useful sight."

Dr. Wayne Scott is the assistant director of the ophthalmic unit at Kings County Hospital and an assistant professor at SUNY Downstate. He's part of the team that saves the sight of thousands of emergency patients every year.

"It's unique because it's busy, first of all, and we're immediate," Scott says. "We take care of the problem immediately as the patients come in."

"We generally can bring a team in pretty quickly, get the patient stabilized, get them to the [operating room]," Lazzarro says. "We try to do this, hopefully, before 12 hours after the injury."

Lazzarro is currently working on a study to compare the success rate of his Brooklyn based team at Kings County Hospital and SUNY Downstate to other major cities.

He says he is confident that their results will stand as a national model for restoring vision after a traumatic incident.

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