The fellowship programs in retinal, vitreous and macular disease allow hands-on, in-depth experience and frequent didactic teaching in the following areas:

1. Retinal Detachments and Peripheral Degenerations

Fellows will learn the technique of indirect ophthalmoscopy, scleral indentation, examination of the vitreous by slit-lamp biomicroscopy and contact lens examination of the macula with slit-lamp and fundus contact lens. This experience is acquired by supervised examination of patients who have peripheral retinal degenerations, retinal detachments, retinal tears, and all types of macular disease. There are over 20,000 outpatient visits per year on the Vitreoretinal Service. Indirect ophthalmoscopy and slit lamp biomicroscopy can be recorded on dedicated video instruments kept in the Retina Clinic.

2. Imaging

The technique and interpretation of high-resolution optical coherence tomography, OCT-angiography, autofluorescence, and stereoscopic and wide-field fluorescein angiography for the diagnosis of diseases of the posterior pole of the eye is acquired in coordination with the Photography Service of the Department of Ophthalmology. Each 1st year Vitreoretinal fellow directs an imaging conference once a week during the academic year. This conference is attended by staff members of the Service as well as by fellows and residents in the Department of Ophthalmology.

Imaging is performed with two Heidelberg Spectralis SD-OCT machines on a regular basis for OCT, FA/ICG, and autofluorescence studies. State of the art TopCon and two Zeiss SD-OCT units with OCT-angiography are also readily available. Intraoperative OCT is available using the Bioptigen handheld SD-OCT unit.

3. Inherited Retinal Diseases

The surgical and medical retina fellows learn the diagnostic work-up and phenotypes of patients with inherited retinal diseases in clinics of Drs. Ian Han, Elliott Sohn, and Edwin Stone. As the genetic diagnosis and treatment of these rare diseases are primary missions of the University of Iowa Institute for Vision Research, fellows gain extensive knowledge and experience in the latest treatments for these disorders, e.g. assisting in first-in-human surgeries using gene and stem cell therapy. Fellow research projects in inherited retinal diseases are encouraged. Electrophysiologic tests (dark adaptation, multi-focal and full field electroretinography) are performed by the Electrophysiology Service of the Department of Ophthalmology.

4. Surgery of Retinal Detachments and Peripheral Retinal Degenerations

Patients with varying and progressively more complex retinal detachments and retinal degenerations leading to detachment are studied and examined by the fellows as the patients are referred to the Service. Surgery is performed by a fellow under the direct supervision of the staff in the operating room. Primary scleral buckling procedures and pneumatic retinopexies are also performed. Post-operative care is directed by the staff surgeon but also seen and followed by the fellow who was involved in the surgery.

5. Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy

The diagnosis and selection of patients with diabetic retinopathy for treatment is performed as patients are referred to the Service. The necessary clinical judgment in selecting patients who can be expected to benefit from laser photocoagulation, anti-VEGF and steroidal therapies, and/or surgical intervention is acquired by examination of patients and consultation with the faculty. Clinical, translational and animal research projects in diabetic retinopathy are readily available.

6. Macular Disease

The Vitreoretinal Service evaluates over 2000 new patients a year with macular disease, the majority being patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) but a wide variety of other macular diseases are also seen. Fellows play an integral part in the evaluation and treatment of all patients. Fellows gain an understanding of the role of genetic research in AMD and macular dystrophies with application to clinic patients through the Carver Lab. In addition, there are numerous studies being carried out including phase I, II, and III trials in AMD with which fellows have the opportunity to be involved with.

7. Laser Photocoagulation

Fellows develop skills in treating a wide range of retinal and choroidal vascular diseases in addition to managing peripheral retinal tears using multiple wavelengths of visible and intrared laser for photocoagulation. Green and infrared indirect laser ophthalmoscopes are available for use.

Two Pascal lasers are used regularly in the retina clinic along with micropulse yellow and diode lasers.

8. YAG Laser

A Nd:YAG lasers are readily available.

9. Cryopexy Treatment of Retinal Disease

Patients are treated under supervision of the staff on an outpatient basis (treatment room or minor operating room), in the ambulatory surgery center, or in the main operating rooms.

10. Vitreoretinal Surgery

Approximately 700 major vitreoretinal surgeries are performed annually. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy, epiretinal membranes, full thickness macular holes and rhegmatogenous retinal detachments are the leading indications though endophthalmitis, proliferative vi­treoretinopathy, diabetic traction detachments, vitreous hemorrhages, subretinal hemorrhage from AMD and other etiologies are frequently performed.

State of the art equipment includes the Alcon Constellation System, vertical/horizontal/curved scissors, bipolar tissue manipulator, automated Sutherland scissors and forceps, unimanual bipolar diathermy, argon endophotocoagulator, indirect laser, intraocular cryoprobe, silicone oil, perfluorocarbon liquids, etc. Dedicated surgical suites are equipped with Zeiss microscopes. Fellows learn to perform surgery using the state-of-the-art Zeiss Resight System, BIOM Widefield Viewing System, and various macular lenses.

Bimanual technique is also taught with assistance of chandeliers and/or lighted instruments. Fellows have the opportunity to trial new instrument under development with leading companies.

During the Fellowship, the majority of surgical procedures will be performed by the Fellow under the direct supervision of a member of the faculty. Intraoperative digital recordings can be made on all cases for presentations and improvements in techniques.

A wet lab with microscopes and surgical simulator with the vitreoretinal module (EyeSi VR Magic) is available for use by the surgical fellows.

Elaine Binkley, MD

Above is former surgical fellow Elaine Binkley, MD, demonstrating flawless technique on the EyeSi VR Magic vitreoretinal surgical simulator.

11. Ultrasound

The Echography Service is run by Dr. Boldt. There are two technicians with over 30 years of combined experience in standardized echographic techniques. Fellows are expected to learn echographic techniques in the surgical management of vitreoretinal disease, and have both didactic and hands-on training in ocular echography.

12. Tumors

Experience in evaluation of uveal melanomas, metastatic tumors, and vascular tumors will be gained under direct supervision of Dr. Boldt. We were a clinical center for the COMS. We were also the COMS Photographic Reading Center, and we still act as a part of the COMS Archival Repository. Fellows participate in the evaluation and management for approximately 100 new uveal melanomas a year. They also participate in the screening and treatment of approximately 6 new patients with retinoblastoma a year.

13. Pediatric Eye Disease

Retinopathy of prematurity screening is performed by the pediatric service and laser for ROP is performed by several members of the retina service. Opportunities to interact with the NICU service are available. Fellows specifically interested in pediatric dis­ease can get experience in these areas.

14. Posterior Uveitis

Dr. Folk and other retina faculty have a special interest in inflammatory diseases of the choroid and retina. Patients are evaluated and treated by the fellows in conjunction with the faculty. Experience in diagnostic vitrectomy and administration of chemotherapeutic agents will be gained. Clinical trials for new therapies targeting posterior uveitic diseases are readily available for participation by fellows.