Mass. Eye and Ear offering new treatment to stop progressive vision loss in patients with keratoconus

October 12, 2016

Ophthalmologists at Mass. Eye and Ear among the most experienced nationwide with newly FDA-approved corneal cross-linking procedure

Boston, Mass. — Ophthalmologists at Massachusetts Eye and Ear are currently accepting patients who may be candidates for a newly FDA-approved outpatient procedure known as “corneal cross-linking.” Corneal cross-linking is a stabilizing treatment to halt the progression of keratoconus, a degenerative eye condition in which the cornea becomes thin and irregularly shaped. Keratoconus can affect adults and children as young as preteenagers, and may result in progressive vision loss if left untreated. While eyeglasses and contacts can serve as visual aids for these patients, — with advanced cases sometimes requiring corneal transplant surgery — corneal cross-linking is currently the only treatment available that can stop the progression of keratoconus.

“With this condition, the corneas become very elastic and tend to bulge; and increasingly, patients can’t see very well,” said Kathryn M. Hatch, MD, a cornea and refractive surgery specialist at Mass. Eye and Ear and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “Until now our only option was to monitor these patients and hope that their disease didn’t progress to the point of requiring a corneal transplant. Today, we can offer a treatment that will stabilize their condition and, hopefully, preserve vision.”

Corneal cross-linking is an eye treatment performed in the office to strengthen corneas that have been weakened by keratoconus. It can also be performed for patients who, in rare cases, experience complications from LASIK surgery. The procedure involves saturating the cornea with a liquid vitamin, followed by controlled application of ultraviolet light. 

In clinical trials since 2011, the technique received FDA-approval in the United States in April, 2016. It has been widely used in other developed nations for the past decade.  

Physicians at Mass. Eye and Ear have collaborated with other practices and institutions nationwide as part of the corneal cross-linking clinical trials conducted in the U.S., making them among the most experienced with the corneal cross-linking procedure in the community and nationally.

“The international experience and clinical trials conducted in the United States have provided promising outcomes for keratoconus, a condition that was once thought to be untreatable,” said Joseph B. Ciolino, MD, a cornea and refractive surgery specialist at Mass. Eye and Ear. “We are very excited to be able to offer this minimally-invasive, vision-saving procedure to our patients.”

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Suzanne Day
Media Relations, Mass. Eye and Ear 

About Massachusetts Eye and Ear 
Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck.  Now united with Schepens Eye Research Institute, Mass. Eye and Ear is the world's largest vision and hearing research center, developing new treatments and cures through discovery and innovation. Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships.  Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex. In the 2015–2016 “Best Hospitals Survey,” U.S. News & World Report ranked Mass. Eye and Ear #1 in the nation for ear, nose and throat care and #1 in the Northeast for eye care. For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit

About Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology

The Harvard Medical School (HMS) Department of Ophthalmology ( is one of the leading and largest academic departments of ophthalmology in the nation. More than 350 full-time faculty and trainees work at nine HMS affiliate institutions, including Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Joslin Diabetes Center/Beetham Eye Institute, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, VA Maine Healthcare System, and Cambridge Health Alliance. Formally established in 1871, the department has been built upon a strong and rich foundation in medical education, research, and clinical care. Through the years, faculty and alumni have profoundly influenced ophthalmic science, medicine, and literature—helping to transform the field of ophthalmology from a branch of surgery into an independent medical specialty at the forefront of science.