Cataract surgery is arguably one of the most successful surgeries today in restoring function of the human body due to ageing.
Instrumental in the success of the outcome is the ability to implant an intraocular lens implant after cataract extraction during cataract surgery.
The first successful intraocular lens implant was performed by a British Ophthalmologist on November 29, 1949. It was the result of a vision to restore useful vision after being rendered aphakic by an extracapsular cataract extraction or intracapsular cataract extraction.
Dr Harold Ridley collaborated with John Pike, an optical scientist from Rayners of London in the development of the first implant.
The original implant material chosen was PMMA. The story of the how PMMA was chosen has become urban legend.
Dr Ridley drew on experience as a miltary surgeon that glass and acrylic was often inert in the human body. In particular, during World War 2, glass and perspex were used to make airplane and gunnery canopies that these were often shattered by enemy fire. The glass fragments would sometimes enter the eyes of the air crew but would have little tissue reaction if the contact surfaces were not sharp.
The original lens design was a biconvex disc that went into the eye capsular bag.
It would however take many more years to overcome the problem of stable fixation and evolve to the “in-the-bag fixation” that we are familar with today.
Harold Ridley and the invention of the intraocular lens. Surv Ophthalmol. 1996 Jan-Feb;40(4):279-92