Groundbreaking eye surgery at Air Force Academy is changing lives, saving careers

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A groundbreaking eye surgery at the Air Force Academy could literally save the careers of many cadets and airman.

Every year Air Force Academy cadets and airmen are found to have eyesight conditions that can disqualify them from flight status. But for patients with the eye disease progressive keratoconus and corneal ectasia - this groundbreaking surgery is helping cadets beat the odds.

"This groundbreaking capability to correct the condition allows us to treat cadets and active duty members here and from surrounding areas," said Maj. Marc Neuffer, chief of cornea and refractive surgery at the 10th Medical Group. "They keep their vision and stay eligible for deployment."

“Keratoconus is most commonly found in individuals between 20 and 30 years of age,” Neuffer said. “It eventually leads to loss of sight requiring corneal transplantation.”

Neuffer said the condition typically isn’t diagnosed until after an individual has joined the military and is well into their career. Once discovered, it becomes a duty-limiting condition that can result in medical discharge from active duty service.

The surgery helped save the career of Air Force pilot Capt. Brent Danner, whose surgery went smoothly and will be able to return to duty in the coming weeks.

The academy is the third Air Force location to offer the procedure. There are 15 base patients currently awaiting for the surgery.

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