Paediatric strabismus surgeries means few patients travelling for care

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By Matthew Haggerty

More than 200 paediatric patients per year are getting advanced ophthalmology care closer to home thanks to the introduction of strabismus surgeries at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario.

Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes that causes significant loss of vision in many children and adults. Four-year-old Michael Lefkimmiatis was one of the first strabismus patients to be treated at Southlake. His parents had noticed his eyes moved inward when he was only an infant and he has been wearing glasses since he was a year old.

His ophthalmologist, Dr. Arun Reginald, who specializes in paediatric ophthalmology and strabismus surgery, points out there are more than just the functional benefits to surgery.

“The primary reason why we do strabismus surgery is to restore vision and function,” says Dr. Reginald, “but it’s important to understand, through the eyes of our patients, that it has a significant impact on how they interact and how people interact with them.”

Michael’s father, Andre, saw the impact of the surgery on Michael soon after his recovery.

“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but he has been a terror since the surgery,” says Michael’s Dad. “He’s opening the fridge and taking things out … he’s always looking for stuff and he’s paying more attention to things.”

These profound results are nothing new to Dr. Reginald, who has seen performed many successful surgeries the Hospital for Sick Children before joining Southlake in 2016.

“It’s fantastically rewarding to see someone that you see early on and have concerns about. Then after you have done your surgery, seeing how that child is developing in a better trajectory and you can see the joy for the parents,” Dr. Reginald says.

To help meet a growing demand for surgery to correct this misalignment, the Central Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) began funding Southlake to perform paediatric strabismus surgeries in the fall of 2016.

In 2015, 67 per cent of Central LHIN residents requiring strabismus surgeries had to leave the catchment area to have their surgery. With the option to have their surgery at The Eye Institute at Southlake, patients are able to get their eye care closer to home, reducing the burden, expense and time that would have been required for patients to travel to downtown Toronto hospitals in order to receive their much-needed treatment.

“This makes a significant impact on the lives of these patients, who can receive world-class ophthalmology care, closer to home at Southlake’s Eye Institute,” says Dr. Dave Williams, President and CEO of Southlake. “The Central LHIN has the fastest growing population in the province, and we are so pleased that the province continues to support us as we strive to deliver quality healthcare to all of our patients.”

The Eye Institute at Southlake is a state of the art facility offering advanced ophthalmology procedures, including cataract, glaucoma and strabismus surgeries. Since its opening in September 2007, the Institute has treated over 38,000 patients from across York Region and surrounding areas.

Check out the video of  Michaels’ story on Southlake’s YouTube Channel.

Matthew Haggerty is a Strategic Communications Consultant at Southlake Regional Health Centre.

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