1. What is Laser Cataract Surgery?
Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery is a new approach to one of the safest and most successful surgical procedures known to man. Ophthalmologists have continually strived to make our most common surgical procedure less invasive, safer and gentler and to make our visual outcomes more precise and predictable. Over the past few years, a “femtosecond” laser has been developed to achieve those goals. For many years, our patients have asked us if they could have their cataracts removed by laser. Previously, we had to tell them that the technology was not yet available. Now, we are finally able to offer them a safe and effective, FDA approved laser procedure. â€¨
2. How does Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery differ from the other technique? â€¨
In the Laser-Assisted procedure, a series of the preliminary steps of standard manual cataract surgery are performed by the femtosecond laser, which is able to do so, very rapidly, precisely and accurately. Incisions are performed without a scalpel (hence the moniker: “bladeless,” used to describe this procedure). These incisions are highly reproducible. The laser is also used to soften the cataract, so that it can be removed in a gentler fashion. In addition, this technique allows us to simultaneously alter the shape of the cornea, or outer window over the pupil, to correct astigmatism to achieve better focus. Once the surgeon and a trained laser technician program the laser, that portion of the procedure is carried out, generally in a matter of seconds. Then, the remainder of the surgery is carried out in a standard technique, which involves aspirating the cataract and insertion of a lens implant. â€¨
3. Is the procedure painful? What if I move or blink? â€¨
With modern cataract surgery, there is minimal, if any, discomfort. The eye is anesthetized with simple eye drops and the eyelid held open by a tiny retractor, which prevents blinking. During the brief laser portion of the procedure, which is only associated with a mild pressure sensation, the eye is stabilized so it cannot move. Most patients leave the operating room without a bandage or patch, so they can begin to see images immediately. â€¨
4. Is there a fee for “Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery” and is everyone a candidate? â€¨
The laser procedure is not covered by your health insurance and is not for everyone. The procedure is currently reserved for those patients who have astigmatism or are having implantation of a “premium” type of lens implant, such as a multifocal lens (to reduce dependency on glasses for distance and reading). The cataract surgery itself is typically covered by insurance plans and the additional fee for the laser component and certain “premium” lens implants can be financed to make it affordable.
5. Is Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery really better?
Though this technology is relatively new, research studies are starting to show some advantages. Though standard cataract surgery is characterized by unprecedented safety and outstanding results. I believe that this method will ultimately be shown to be safer and with more predictable outcomes as results continue to be analyzed. I tell my patients that when my time for cataract surgery comes I believe it will be done with the laser-assisted procedure.
Dr. Richard Sherry is the founder and President of Brandywine Eye Center. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology, and affiliated with Christiana Care Health System, Temple University Hospital Department of Ophthalmology, Wills Surgicenter Wilmington, and Glasgow Surgicenter. Dr. Sherry specializes in Cataract Surgery, Corneal and External Diseases, Glaucoma Diagnosis and Therapy, Refractive Surgery, and Medical Eye Consultations.
Brandywine Eye Center, P.A.
2500 Grubb Road, Suite 234, Wilmington, DE
Glasgow Medical Center
2600 Glasgow Avenue, Suite 206, Newark, DE