Charles Kelman

National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Medicine

For his innovations in cataract surgical technology resulting in reduced rehabilitation time for millions of Americans, significant savings, and the creation of a new industry.

For his innovations in cataract surgical technology resulting in reduced rehabilitation time for millions of Americans, significant savings, and the creation of a new industry.

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Birth
May 23, 1930
Age Awarded
62
Country of Birth
USA
Key Contributions
Cryoprobe To Address Cataracts - Most Commonly Used Cataract Surgery Method
Awarded by
George H. W. Bush
Education
University of Geneva
Tufts University
Areas of Impact
Health & Medicine
Affiliations
Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat
Other Prizes
National Inventors Hall of Fame
U

Up until the mid-1960s cataracts-- flaws in the lens that cloud the vision—required invasive surgery with a 10-day hospital stay and lengthy recovery. Today, it’s an outpatient procedure with many patients back to work the next day thanks to a procedure developed by ophthalmologist Charles Kelman.

Kelman was determined to figure out how to remove cataracts without having to take out the entire lens of the eye, which was then standard practice. In 1962, he invented the cryoprobe, which made it easier to remove the lens and cataracts by freezing them first -- a technique still used in retina surgery. 

Kelman was inspired by a visit to his dentist's office when he had his teeth cleaned with an ultrasonic device. In 1967, he introduced a technique known as phacoemulsification that adapted ultrasonic technology. The method uses high-pitched sounds to help break up cataract tissue without damaging the surrounding eye. An estimated 10 million such procedures are performed worldwide each year, bringing sight back to many patients. 

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