Medical first for Bay eye surgeon

New cataract procedure set to help change patients’ lives

Dr Juan Deseta busy with a surgery at the Eye and Laser Institute
Dr Juan Deseta busy with a surgery at the Eye and Laser Institute
Image: Supplied

The pure joy on an elderly man’s face who – having had his eyesight restored – was looking into the mirror for the first time again.

This is what an eye surgeon, who performed cutting-edge cataract surgery in Port Elizabeth this week, lives for as he describes how game-changing procedures are opening up new worlds for patients.

In a medical first on the continent, Dr Juan Deseta of the Eye and Laser Clinic performed a cataract procedure with state-of-the-art ZEPTO technology this week.

The system was special as it allowed the surgeon to create a perfectly round 5.5mm centred capsulorhexis – referring to removing the cataracts and replacing it with an artificial lens.

“This is an important step in the procedure as it ensures stability.

“It also significantly loosens the lens, a critical step which makes the surgery safer,” he said.

“I have no doubt that soon this technology will become mainstream as it offers such advantages.”

The ability to see this incredible world around us should not be a right reserved for the wealthy.
Dr Juan Deseta

He said almost everyone who needed cataract surgery could benefit from ZEPTO technology.

He was excited to reveal he would also bring the Topcon Triton Swept Source OCT to Port Elizabeth.

The Swept Source OCT improved scanning technology.

“It is the only one of its kind in Port Elizabeth and the applications are astounding,” he said.

“With this machine one can take images of retinal vessels without having to inject dye into the patient.

“This is profound as injecting dye can cause very serious allergic reactions in some patients.

“Abnormalities in the eye can now be identified in a quick and non-invasive manner and the level of detail we can see is mind-blowing.

“We can now detect certain diseases long before they cause damage. It’s a complete game-changer.”

After completing his studies at Wits University in 2005 and working in Cape Town and Edinburgh, Deseta completed his training as a specialist opthalmologist at Port Elizabeth’s Provincial Hospital.

“My time at PE Provincial built solid foundations and I will always be grateful for that,” he said.

“Under the leadership of Dr Danie Louw and Dr Mark Jacoby, who are both exceptional surgeons, the ophthalmology department is incredibly strong.

“The pool of registrars who are specialising there right now is phenomenal; there are some amazing young surgeons on their way to qualifying.

It is because of this that I am determined to ensure Port Elizabeth offers the latest technological advancements in ophthalmology.”

He said it was very important to him to also offer this cutting edge technology pro bono in some cases.

“To me it would all be pointless if we didn’t ‘pay it forward’. The ability to see this incredible world around us should not be a right reserved for the wealthy.”

Deseta said the cost of ZEPTO surgery was at this stage a little more than regular cataract surgery.

“With regard to the medical aids paying for it, the finer details are still being finalised but I cannot see why it wouldn’t be covered.”

Dr Juan Deseta and his son Oscar in his consultation room
Dr Juan Deseta and his son Oscar in his consultation room
Image: Supplied

Deseta said he believed Port Elizabeth was ready to take its place at the forefront of medical technology.

“We have some of the finest established doctors here and several new young surgeons who are going to grow Port Elizabeth into an advanced medical hub – but we need to keep them here.

“Cataract extraction surgery is definitely my favourite procedure.

“I have over the years shared in the excitement of so many patients who believed they were permanently blind and after surgery can begin life again,” he said.

“I will never forget one patient who had been abandoned by his family – as an ex-teacher at 75.

“He was blind and left to fend for himself in an outside room on someone’s property.

“He was on the verge of starving to death as he could not work nor provide for himself.

“One of his old pupils heard about what he was going through and brought him to see me.

“He told me he had forgotten what his own face looked like. I operated and removed both cataracts.

“The day we removed the first patch and held a mirror up for him was incredible.

“He stared at his face and gripped the mirror in disbelief and said: ‘There you are, old boy!’”

“Last I heard he was working and even driving again,” Deseta said.

“It is a privilege to be part of the joy when people who have never seen their grandchildren break down in tears when they see them for the first time or when husbands and wives are able to see each other once again,” he said.

Deseta said Port Elizabeth was home to him and his family.

“When I was offered a post to specialise in Port Elizabeth I soon realised I had found my home.

“I have always admired Dr Jan Venter because he is a true pioneer in the field of ophthalmology and when he offered me the opportunity to partner with him at the Eye and Laser Institute, I was certain this was where I wanted to stay.

“Port Elizabeth is alive with natural beauty, genuine people and so much potential.”