If you have cataracts, an ophthalmologist will most likely suggest cataract surgery, a highly effective treatment method, to restore diminished vision. Within the cataract surgery bracket, you have two options: traditional cataract surgery and laser assisted cataract surgery.
We use Medicare’s guidelines to determine patient eligibility for laser assisted cataract surgery. This means patients must have cataracts that sufficiently impede their vision, as well as astigmatism. The health of the patient is also a priority factor before pursuing any surgical procedure, including laser surgery. Read, 8 Criteria for a Good LASIK Candidate, to learn more.
Your doctor will go over the methods and benefits of each to determine which option is best for you, part of which is determined by your vision diagnosis.
Traditional vs Laser Assisted Cataract Surgery
For the most part, we recommend patients opt for the laser surgery option whenever possible. However, it helps to have a review of both techniques to understand what they entail.
Traditional cataract surgery
Traditional cataract surgery is called phacoemulsification. After numbing the eye, the surgeon uses a scalpel to create a small incision in the cornea. Once the incision is complete, s/he inserts a small instrument to reach back behind the pupil to the lens, which sits on a capsule.
The instrument is then used to make a small opening in the capsule to access the cataract. The opening is round in shape, in order to allow a specialized probe that emits ultrasound waves to break up the cloudy cataract(s) diminishing your vision. The resulting particles are gently sucked up and an artificial replacement lens is put into place (see more about lenses below).
Once the procedure is complete, the surgeon will seal the incisions with a specialist, self-healing glue, and you’ll be provided with post-op care instructions.
Laser assisted cataract surgery
Laser cataract surgery operates under the same general guidelines as LASIK surgery, in the sense that the LenSx laser and compute software map the detailed contours of your eye and its internal structure to gain an exact picture of the cataract we’re going to remove. Remember that, like a fingerprint, each human eye is entirely unique. The ability to create a precise, measurement-accurate image of your eye is exciting and revolutionizes our surgical vision correction abilities.
From this 3D map, the laser instrument receives precise information about the exact location, size, and depth required to remove the cataract without damaging the lens. Once these details are established, the surgeon uses the laser to create the incisions and openings that would normally be carried out with the scalpel. The energy of the laser can also be used to soften a particularly hard or more developed cataract, making it easier for the ultrasonic waves to break it up.
After the cataract is sufficiently broken down into smaller pieces, the surgeon suctions them up, inserts a new artificial lens, and then seals the openings with the same self-healing adhesive used in traditional cataract surgery.
A Note About Lens Options
Regardless of which cataract surgery you choose, the surgeon will replace your lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). As a result, s/he’ll discuss some of your options with you before surgery.
Today, patients have the ability to choose a customized IOL, depending on their vision prescription. IOL options include:
- Monofocal: Like traditional glass lenses, designed to correct near or farsightedness
- Multifocal: These offer a range of vision corrections, similar to bifocals or transitional glass lenses, correcting near, intermediate, and distance vision.
- Toric: These lenses correct the elliptical malformation of the cornea that causes astigmatism.
The ophthalmologist will work with you weeks before the surgery, trying out sample contact lenses, to determine whether you are a good candidate for one of these specific IOLs or whether it’s best to use a clear, non-corrective lens option instead.
Benefits Of Laser Assisted Cataract Surgery
There are a few benefits of laser assisted cataract surgery:
More precise vision correction
Studies have shown that the precise dimensions and the resulting 3D imaging/map created by the LenSx laser technology results in more accurate vision repair after the patient has healed. Currently, only about 10% of traditional laser surgeries are as successful in their results as laser surgery.
Correct two issues at once
We mentioned that laser assisted cataract surgery is similar to LASIK surgery. That includes the surgery’s ability to correct astigmatism, the vision issue most often corrected using LASIK. During the same surgery, we will remove the offending cataract and correct the shape of your cornea (misshapen or elongated corneas being the cause of astigmatism).
The combination of corrected astigmatism combined with laser-assisted cataract surgery can mean the ability to see better than you have in years – or decades. And, it has an equally low risk of complications or infection.
Equally short to faster recovery time
Both types of cataract surgery have equally short recovery times. For some patients, this means an automatic improvement in their vision. For others, it can take up to a week or two before optimal vision is restored. And, for many, there is no need for glasses other than reading (if you are 45 years old or older).
Because the laser requires less energy to break up the cataract, some of our patients experience reduced, post-op corneal swelling. That can also result in faster vision restoration.
Surgical Skill Of The Ophthalmologist Is A Top Priority
More than anything else, the skill of the surgeon and his/her experience is what largely determines the results of your surgery, as well as faster healing times and lower risk of complications. Always do your homework when looking for an ophthalmologist to perform your laser assisted cataract surgery.
You should actively seek an eye center and ophthalmologist that:
- Makes you feel safe, educated, and well taken care of
- Has clean, contemporary, and inviting facilities
- Offers proof of their ample experience and success using standard or laser cataract surgery on patients with diagnoses that are just like yours.
Feel free to use our post, Tips for Choosing an Ophthalmologist, as a guide when selecting an eye center and surgeon you can trust.
Are your cataracts and astigmatism progressing to the point that you’d like to surgically correct them once and for all? Schedule an eye appointment with us here at the Atlantic Eye Institute, where your health and wellbeing are always our top priority.