The development of Laser-Assisted Bladeless Cataract Removal may be the most significant advancement in cataract surgery in half a century.
Cataracts develop as part of the aging process, everyone is at risk eventually.
By age 75, about 70 percent of people will have cataracts. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world, according to Prevent Blindness America, which estimates that 30 million Americans age 40 and older will have cataracts by the year 2020.
Cataracts most often occur in adults in their 50s and 60s, when the lens slowly becomes cloudy and people begin to notice a loss in their vision. In most people, the vision loss is relatively slow.
With traditional “Phacoemulsification” cataract surgery, an ophthalmologist uses a tiny diamond-tipped or metal blade to open the capsule in front of the eye that holds the cloudy, scarred or darkened lens. The surgeon removes the lens with a phaco probe that uses ultrasound energy to break up the hardened lens and “vacuums” out the smaller pieces.
Finally the surgeon implants an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) to restore vision and closes the wound, usually using a “self-seal” method so no stitches are needed. The availability of laser-assisted procedures has made a big difference in treatment options. Using the Femtosecond laser softens the hard natural lens cataract before it is removed and replaced with a new artificial lens designed to restore normal vision.
Using the Femtosecond Laser-Assisted Bladeless Cataract Removal
With laser-assisted cataract surgery, the first step of the process involves creating a three-dimensional diagram of the front of the eye using optical coherence tomography (OCT), a sophisticated imaging system. The OCT scans provide very precise results, making it easier to create a customized plan for each eye. They help determine the location, depth, and angle of the corneal incisions.
Next, the femtosecond laser uses that data to make tiny, precisely configured incisions in the cornea. This relatively quick, comfortable, minimally invasive addition to traditional cataract surgery that provides our patients with increased precision and safety for their cataract surgery.
One of the key benefits for patients is that the laser can place those incisions in a pattern to decrease astigmatism more precisely than can be done by hand. Since the main reason for cataract surgery is to improve vision, being able to minimize the need for glasses after the procedure is a tremendous benefit.
Next, pulses of high-energy from the laser are used to soften a hardened cataract, making it easier for the surgeon to remove the internal contents of the lens capsule. Less Ultrasound energy is needed to break up the lens, which is a clear advantage for patients whose corneas have been damaged. There is also less inflammation inside the eye, which usually means a faster recovery process.