MIGS – Making inroads in glaucoma specialization

In the future, medical archaeologists and historians will look at the 2010s and 2020s as a wildly explosive era of ophthalmic evolution. The marriage of technology and medicine has produced all sorts of viable offspring, and the proliferation of new treatments and tools will continue to evolve. Those historians will probably look at the widening array of MIGS the way an entomologist studies highly-specialized beetles in the jungle.

Nowadays, there are a lot of different microinvasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) procedures, and plenty more in the pipeline. Since the term was first coined in 2009, many treatments have entered the market. These work in a myriad of ways, from being miniature versions of trabeculectomy to numerous angle-based treatment options to help fluid drain from the eye. 

But what kind of a role can we expect MIGS to play in the future, and where are we now? Are we in the era of MIGS? Where do MIGS fit into glaucoma treatment regimens? 

We reached out to two top glaucoma specialists to get their take on the big picture and some exciting new developments. These are Dr. Boris Malyugin, deputy director at S. Fyodorov Eye Microsurgery Institution in Moscow, and Dr. Chelvin Sng, a director and senior consultant ophthalmologist with numerous appointments in Singapore. 

Let’s dive in. 

How big are MIGS?

First, let’s get a look at the current state of MIGS — and how big a piece of the puzzle they are in current glaucoma treatments. 

Dr. Malyugin weighed in here. As he explained, “At least for now, MIGS represent a small to moderate piece of the glaucoma treatment puzzle.” But it looks like things are set to expand soon, and for good reason. 

Let’s step back though. There are some hurdles to clear. Quoth Dr. Malyugin: “The current situation is that there is a huge variety of different devices, and sometimes surgeons are being confused with respect to what device to choose properly. But I believe there is a good trend now to classify MIGS devices, like with the trabecular stenting seen in iStent (Glaukos, San Clemente, California, USA). Similarly, there are devices that improve suprachoroidal outflow — some of which, like CyPass, did not stand the test of time.”

Classifying MIGS into different categories will certainly help surgeons get a hold on the rapidly developing field, he noted. There are more than a few ways to categorize: method of drainage, use for early or late-stage glaucoma, or placement in the eye, for example. Keep your eye on this space as types of MIGS become more clearly classified. 

There’s a lot of room for growth, especially since the field is developing so rapidly. “Maybe tomorrow there will be new technology, such as MIGS with devices that have sustainable release of intraocular medication. In the future, we will have much better long-term solutions than we have now,” shared Dr. Malyugin.

It’s not all roses, however, and there is plenty of more work to be done. “Glaucoma is generally about proper diagnostics and proper follow-up, and MIGS is kind of a one-step procedure,” he continued. “Obviously, it does not cover the lifespan of the glaucoma patient. The patient should be followed for a long, long time, and the treatment — as we know — should be adjusted according to the individual needs.”

Because glaucoma can only be treated and not cured, customized care is crucial. “MIGS is only one piece of this puzzle and we just need to integrate it into clinical practices properly,” said Dr. Malyugin. 

Specific devices
MIGS - Making inroads in glaucoma specialization

So let’s look a bit closer. Dr. Malyugin mentioned treatments that work for early and late-stage glaucoma. For early glaucoma, there’s the iStent — a silicon tube that goes into the subconjunctival space. According to Dr. Malyugin, there are very optimistic results with respect to the Hydrus Microstent (Ivantis, Irvine, California, USA), which stents the Schlemm’s canal and remains there. 

There are also devices that help remove the trabecular meshwork, such as Kahook Dual Blade (New World Medical, Rancho Cucamonga, California), the iTrack system (Nova Eye Medical, Adelaide, Australia) for ab-interno trabeculectomy, and Trabectome (NeoMedix, Tustin, California, USA), one of the first MIGS treatments. 

While there is increasing data that MIGS devices aren’t particularly effective at improving trabecular outflow, there is still an added benefit to having them, Dr. Malyugin noted. 

Getting cataract surgeons involved

There’s room for cataract surgeons to get involved in MIGS devices, even if they don’t commonly use them now. This is largely down to skillset. 

As Dr. Malyugin put it: “Cataract surgeons can dig in because these surgeons don’t usually deal with glaucoma patients very much. But cataract surgeons are skilled surgeons with a good level of dexterity who can accommodate these new devices into their surgical practice. For them, it’s natural and easy to use these MIGS devices during their procedure.”

There are certainly technical challenges involved with implanting some MIGS devices, which cataract surgeons appear readily suited for. “You have to know how to do intraoperative gonioscopy. You have to adjust the operation microscope. It should be tilted by at least 30 degrees to view the angle structure. And there are certain limitations in the movement that are the result of the gonioscopic lens positioned on the cornea,” he continued.

While these are technical skills to be mastered, Dr. Malyugin believes the average cataract surgeon with a good level of dexterity can tackle the skills and add them to their repertoire. 

Three exciting MIGS developments

There are three intriguing MIGS devices we wanted to discuss with Singapore star Dr. Chelvin Sng, and she gave us the goods. These are the Paul Glaucoma Implant (Advanced Ophthalmic Innovations, Singapore), the MINIject (iSTAR, Wavre, Belgium), and PreserFlo (Santen, Osaka, Japan). 

We’ll start in that order. The Paul Glaucoma Implant (PGI) was designed by Singapore’s Professor Paul Chew and is a novel, valveless glaucoma drainage device developed to reduce complications seen in some other drainage devices. Dr. Sng was a co-inventor of the PGI, so she knows what’s up. 

Paul Glaucoma Implant

So what’s up with the PGI? What’s its future, how does it work, and how safe is it?

Dr. Sng sang a song for us. “The Paul Glaucoma Implant (PGI) has the potential to replace the Ahmed and Baerveldt tubes as the preferred tube implant,” she incanted. “A recent publication in the Journal of Glaucoma reporting the two-year outcomes of the PGI shows that it significantly reduces the IOP to the low teens, with a significant reduction in medications. My personal experience with the PGI is that its efficacy is similar to the Baerveldt with a higher safety profile than the Baerveldt, and now I use the PGI in more than 95% of my tube implant surgeries,” Dr. Sng continued.

Avoiding endothelial cell loss, hypotony, and tube erosions are potential concerns with existing glaucoma drainage devices. Steps to reduce those effects — which the PGI is designed to do — are valuable ones for the development of MIGS. 


The MINIject implant creates an alternate drainage pathway from the anterior chamber to the supraciliary space. This makes it a bit special in the MIGS world and certainly helps it stand out. 

We asked Dr. Sng what she liked about it, what about its placement made it different, who it is for, and what advice she’d give to fellow doctors. 

“The MINIject drains aqueous from the anterior chamber to the supraciliary space,” she began. “Though this space is potentially able to lower IOP significantly, scarring also occurs here and, unlike the subconjunctival space, we are unable to modulate wound healing with anti-metabolites.”

There’s a lot more to be done to fully understand this approach, according to Dr. Sng. As she put it, “ I think we still have a lot to learn about the supraciliary space and how we can unlock its full potential in glaucoma surgery. Compared to trabecular bypass procedures, supraciliary drainage is associated with a higher risk of complications, including hypotony. Hence, I would not offer this to patients with very mild glaucoma, especially as a phaco — when the eye pressure is well controlled with eye drops.”

So, is there room for it in the MIGS world? “It may have a role in refractory glaucoma in the context of failed subconjunctival drainage procedures, though this still awaits investigation,” said Dr. Sng. 


The PreserFlo Ab-Externo Microshunt has been available in Europe since 2012, while FDA approval in the US is pending. It can be used on its own or in conjunction with cataract surgery, producing a bleb under the conjunctiva and Tenon’s capsule. 

We were curious about what Dr. Sng liked about PreserFlo, how it could fit into a treatment regimen, and what else it works well with. 

“I like the design of the PreserFlo implant, which has a fin that prevents peri-implant leak, or migration of the implant into the anterior chamber. It is very rare to encounter persistent hypotony after the surgery,” said Dr. Sng. “The sub-tenon placement of the implant and its length ensures that the bleb is posterior, and patients are less likely to complain of bleb dysesthesia compared with trabeculectomy blebs.” 

She continued: “I would offer the PreserFlo MicroShunt to patients with moderate to severe medically uncontrolled glaucoma. I have paired this procedure with cataract surgery in patients with visually significant cataracts, though that may increase the risk of subconjunctival scarring.”

MIGS Moves

So, as you can see, a lot is changing in the MIGS world — and fast. The upshot? More options for doctors and patients, and more room for development in the future. It makes sense to take almost an evolutionary lens to MIGS development since the proliferation is so fast and diverse. What’ll we call the MIGS Cambrian Explosion in the future, do you think?

Boris Malyugin 1

Dr. Boris Malyugin

is a professor of ophthalmology and is the deputy director general (R&D, Edu) of the S. Fyodorov Eye Microsurgery Institution in Moscow, Russia. He is also the president of the Russian Ophthalmology Society (RSO). Dr. Malyugin is a world-renowned authority and expert in the field of anterior segment surgery. He has established himself at the forefront of advanced cataract surgery by pioneering numerous techniques and technologies. He is well known for his development of the Malyugin Ring, for use in small pupil cataract surgery. Dr. Malyugin has received multiple international awards and was invited to participate with named and keynote lectures and live surgery sessions during several national and international meetings. He is a member of the ESCRS Program Committee, Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis (member since 2012), International Intraocular Implant Club (member since 2009), as well as the ICO and AAO Advisory Committees.


Dr. Chelvin Sng

BA, MBBChir, MA(Cambridge), MRCSEd, FRCSEd, MMed, FAMS, is a consultant at the National University Hospital (NUH) and assistant professor at National University of Singapore (NUS). She is also an honorary consultant at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, and adjunct clinic investigator at the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI). A pioneer of minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS), Dr. Sng was the first surgeon in Asia to perform XEN, InnFocus Microshunt and iStent Inject implantation. A co-author of The Ophthalmology Examinations Review, Dr. Sng has also written several book chapters and publications in various international journals. Proficient in conventional glaucoma surgery and trained in complex cataract surgery, Dr. Sng co-invented a new glaucoma drainage device, which was patented in 2015. When not working, Dr. Sng can be found volunteering in medical missions in India and across Southeast Asia.

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