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New support for patients facing enucleation surgery

A health professional’s first-hand experience of having an eye removed has led to an international collaboration to educate patients about the anxiety-inducing procedure.

Mr Mitchell Wilson, a nurse unit manager at Melbourne’s Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH), had his eye surgically removed as a child and has often been asked to talk about his experience with patients at the hospital.

The procedure – enucleation surgery – involves removal of the eye, leaving the eye muscles intact to support the insertion of an artificial eye.

“Patients who needed to have an eye removed were often traumatised by the prospect, and there was little information available to them that could support their understanding of the process,” Wilson said.

He felt more resources would fulfil a broader need, both locally and internationally. Wilson’s experience led him to champion an international collaboration project of eye hospitals to develop an education package that support patients facing this surgery.

On World Sight Day on 8 October, the RVEEH announced a partnership with the World Association of Eye Hospitals (WAEH) and other leading member institutions, including Moorfields Eye Hospital in the UK and Kellogg Eye Centre in the US to create more patient focused resources for enucleation.

A project team, including Wilson, have created videos, a fact sheet and FAQ resource that answer common questions for patients.

The RVEEH said the objective was to develop a sustainable education package for patients and healthcare professionals that can provide reliable and complete information on the surgery and living with an artificial eye. The resources are now available online.

“I am proud of the leadership demonstrated by Mitchell Wilson and the rest of this international project team in delivering this critical tool in supporting broader understanding of the enucleation process,” RVEEH CEO Mr Brendon Gardner said.

“This patient centric project is an excellent example both of the significant benefits gained from having a stand-alone specialist eye hospital and the value of global associations such as WAEH.”

The RVEEH treats approximately 60 penetrating eye injuries every year that require surgery, mainly men aged between 20 and 59. The specialist hospital said most are a result of accidents that could have been avoided with good eye protection.

During COVID-19, the RVEEH has seen an increase in injuries from household cleaning products, DIY and gardening.

More reading: Eyes on the job: injuries and safety eyewear