What is femtosecond laser cataract surgery?
Millions of Americans are affected by cataracts. This condition, which clouds the natural lens of the eye, is the result of protein accumulation that progresses over time. Cataract surgery provides patients with the clearer vision they need to enjoy an optimal quality of life.
Laser cataract surgery is an advanced cataract surgery technique that utilizes femtosecond laser technology. A femtosecond laser emits ultra-short bursts of energy at ultra-fast speed. This increases the precision and accuracy of various steps in cataract surgery, including the corneal incision, the anterior capsulotomy, and the fragmentation of the lens and cataract. It also can reduce mild astigmatism by making precise laser incisions on the corneal.
What are the benefits of the femtosecond laser?
The objective of femtosecond laser cataract surgery is to create an incision at the most precise length, depth, and location on all planes of the ocular surface. The increase in accuracy and precision of each surgical step is associated with lower risks and improved visual outcomes. The femtosecond laser creates such discreet incisions that they are expected to self-heal in a shorter amount of time than incisions made with a surgical blade.
Studies suggest that capsulotomies conducted with lasers facilitate optimal centering of the intraocular lens that replaces the clouded lens. This positioning is what provides the clearest possible vision. Capsule breakage, which can occur after surgery, is less common in patients who undergo laser cataract surgery, as is infection.
The femtosecond laser is also used to dismantle the cataract on the lens by first softening protein clumps. The disintegration of the cataract into softer, smaller pieces reduces the amount of energy that is needed to remove the cataract. Less energy usage means less chance of distorting or burning the incision. The reduction in energy also decreases the risk of a detached retina.
How does the femtosecond cataract laser compare to other cataract lasers?
Studies show that laser cataract devices are similar in the benefits they offer over traditional cataract surgery. Using lasers, the ophthalmologist gains:
- Greater control over surgical techniques using custom-guidance
- Greater precision in making incisions and performing the anterior capsulotomy aspect of surgery
- Speed and accuracy in the removal of the clouded lens
What is the femtosecond laser cataract procedure?
Patients who visit our practice for femtosecond laser cataract surgery in Westborough, MA can expect the procedure to be performed using anesthetic eye drops that numb the patient's eye before we begin. Because every eye is unique in shape and size, the laser system creates a precise 3D map of relevant ocular structures based on a brief scan of the eye.
This map is used to focus the laser appropriately so the most precise incisions can be made in a matter of seconds. After creating the necessary incisions to access the eye's lens, the laser is then used to break up and soften the proteins that have caused the cataract. Ultrasound is then used to remove the cataract (phacoemulsification). If necessary, the laser can be used again to correct astigmatism. The final step of surgery is the insertion of the selected intraocular lens. After the procedure is complete, a bandage or dressing may be placed over the eye.
What is the recovery from femtosecond laser cataract surgery?
The femtosecond laser acts quickly and gently on the eye, which reduces trauma to ocular tissues. Patients often see an improvement in their vision in 24 to 48 hours. Mild discomfort should be expected as the eye begins to heal. Within a few days, soreness or tenderness should be fully resolved. Patients may also notice itching and sensitivity to light. Normal activities may be resumed as early as two to three days post-operatively. Eye drops may be used for several days to prevent infection. Follow-up visits are scheduled so that we can evaluate the progress of healing.
Does insurance cover femtosecond laser cataract surgery?
Insurance typically covers only the essential aspects of cataract surgery. Aspects considered elective, such as premium IOLs and laser-assisted techniques, are usually paid out of pocket by the patient.
What are the risks of femtosecond laser cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery carries risks of complications such as bleeding, infection, and lens dislocation. The use of laser technology has significantly reduced these risks compared to standard cataract surgery. A recent study published in the Journal of Refractive Surgery indicated that rates of posterior capsular opacification, horizontal and complete decentration of the intraocular lens, and vertical lens tilt are lower compared to traditional cataract surgery. Another study has indicated that 99.5% of patients who have undergone femtosecond laser cataract surgery report no severe problems.