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Archive March 2019 XX, No. 3

9 Things You May Not Know About TASS

The rare but dangerous condition isn't a problem for most eye surgeons... until it is. Here's an update.

Joe Paone

Joe Paone


STILL A THREAT Even though TASS is rare, all centers that perform eye surgeries remain at risk.

In 2006, an outbreak of toxic anterior segment syndrome (TASS) caused shockwaves in the ophthalmology community. Task forces were formed, studies were undertaken, preventative measures and treatments were developed. If you were involved in the eye industry back then, you probably remember the hubbub. In the 13 years since, the panic over TASS has waned, but there's still much mystery shrouding the rare but potentially dangerous post-operative inflammation that results when a foreign substance is introduced into the eye during surgery — usually from contaminants in medications or on surgical instruments. Here's the latest.

1. The threat remains. Although there hasn't been a large outbreak since 2006, TASS remains a low-profile threat with cases still flaring up. Late last summer, 3 Seattle-area surgery centers reported 15 patients that had been diagnosed with TASS following cataract surgery from January to July. Health officials have yet to determine a cause, but possible culprits include preservatives or toxins in medications or products, or from medication or instrument handling procedures within the facilities.

"It's an ongoing issue," says Nick Mamalis, MD, one of the world's foremost experts on TASS. "We're still getting phone calls or emails regarding issues with TASS at a particular surgical center or hospital a couple times a month. Most people don't pay attention to TASS, or its causes, or prevention, until it actually happens to them." Dr. Mamalis estimates the TASS reports he's received in the last year to be in the hundreds, but says it's difficult to know how many cases of TASS there are, because many aren't reported or diagnosed properly.

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