Meet a Specialist: Kathryn M. Hatch, M.D.

HatchKathryn162x233A member of the Mass. Eye and Ear Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service, Dr. Hatch is an accomplished refractive and cataract surgeon and specializes in advanced techniques in all-laser refractive surgery techniques (including LASIK and PRK), refractive laser-assisted cataract surgery and premium intraocular lens surgery, as well as corneal cross-linking and intrastromal corneal ring segments (intacs) for keratoconus and in the treatment of dry eye disease. In addition to her extensive experience with laser-assisted cataract surgery, she is one of the most experienced surgeons in New England with intraoperative aberrometry, a technology used to improve refractive outcomes at the time of cataract surgery. Additionally, she participates in several clinical research trials including collagen cross-linking and the study of medications used at cataract surgery to preserve endothelial function. In 2016, Dr. Hatch was selected as one of the 300 Premier Innovators in refractive cataract surgery in the United States by Ocular Surgery News.

Dr. Hatch is also an accomplished corneal surgeon with experience in the most advanced corneal transplantation surgery procedures including Descemet’s Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK), Descemet Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK), and Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratectoplasy (DALK) in addition to full thickness penetrating keratoplasty. She also performs Intralase Enabled Keratoplasty (IEK) and Intralase Enabled Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratectoplasty (IE-DALK) and was the first eye surgeon in New England to perform IE-DALK. She sees patients at Mass. Eye and Ear’s Waltham location.

Dr. Hatch always wanted to be a surgeon. When she discovered the field of Ophthalmology, she knew she had found her specialty. “I liked the immediacy of being able to actually see what I was diagnosing,” she explains. “And I was struck by how much an ophthalmologist can improve a patient’s quality of life.”

As a physician and surgeon, Dr. Hatch has particular expertise with patients who have keratoconus, a disorder that causes the cornea to lose its elasticity. Left untreated, keratoconus distorts the vision, scars the cornea, and can cause vision loss. Eyeglasses, contact lenses, and intacs – corneal inserts – can help, but cannot stop disease progression. The most advanced cases may require cornea transplant surgery. 

Corneal cross-linking, an investigational therapy, is a key break-through in treating the disorder and Dr. Hatch is one of the physicians able to perform the procedure. While not yet approved by the FDA in the United States, it is widely used in Europe and is now available through the CXL-USA clinical trial. 

“Our participation in this study enables us to offer patients the only treatment that can effectively halts keratoconus progression,” Dr. Hatch explains. “And it may prevent the need for corneal transplantation.”

Treatment takes place at the Waltham clinic and entails saturating the cornea with the vitamin riboflavin and then applying UV light. When successful, it restores corneal rigidity, preventing further stretching and bulging.

One unique aspect of the current cross-linking study is its departure from the traditional, so-called Dresden protocol, in which the corneal epithelium is removed prior to treatment. 
“Most reported complications from cross-linking were related to the ‘epi-off’ procedure,” Dr. Hatch adds. “While we have the option to perform ‘epi-off’, most investigators in the trial are performing ‘epi-on’. In addition to being effective, the ‘epi-on’ procedure allows for a shorter recovery, fewer complications, and the ability to return to contacts quickly.”

All patients evaluated for laser vision correction at Mass. Eye and Ear, Waltham undergo keratoconus screening for safety, she adds. “If our corneal topography imaging reveals mildly asymmetric corneas, then we don’t perform LASIK on that patient. Laser correction could make the problem worse, and my job is to find the safest, most effective treatment possible for each individual patient.”

This ability to give her patients access to the latest treatment modalities and advanced technology is why Dr. Hatch is delighted to be part of the team at Mass. Eye and Ear, Waltham. “I’m a clinician, and I like clinical research,” she says. “But ultimately, what interests me most is patient care. Mass. Eye and Ear’s focus on innovation – whether it’s an investigational protocol like collagen cross-linking or the most advanced laser cataract surgery approach – translates into excellent care.” 

A graduate of Middlebury College, Dr. Hatch received her MD from the University of Vermont Medical School, then completed her Ophthalmology residency at New York University’s Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital and completed a fellowship in Cornea and Refractive Surgery and External Disease at Mass. Eye and Ear.

The daughter of two teachers, Dr. Hatch says apart from patient care and research, her other love is teaching. She enjoys training HMS Department of Ophthalmology residents and Mass. Eye and Ear fellows. 

Contact Dr. Hatch’s office at 781-890-1023.

View Dr. Hatch’s online bio for more information.