Cataract surgery is currently an outpatient procedure done with manual cuts. Full recovery may take several weeks. The way the procedure starts is with an incision in the periphery of the cornea. Then an incision is made in the capsule that contains the lens of the eye which is called an anterior capsulotomy. The filmy lens is the broken up with an ultrasonic probe and removed. An artificial lens called an intraocular lens is inserted into the capsule. During the procedure steps are taken to fix astigmatism. Those cuts are called limbal relaxing incisions and are made with a diamond blade.
Laser Cataract surgery is extremely short procedure. However people can still move while under the knife. Movement in patients has a tendency to increase the younger the patient is. Movement during the surgery can cause complications such as the intraocular lens not being covered by the lens capsule up to 90%.
There is now a new way to do cataract surgery. Laser Cataract Surgery is performed with a femtosecond laser. Femtosecond lasers were originally introduced to the American public through Lasik. Currently there are two femtosecond lasers in the United States that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the LenSx and the LensAR. The first laser cataract surgery in the United States was performed by Dr. Slade of the Slade and Baker Vision Center with the LenSx machine. The first patient, Lola Anderson said was ecstatic and enthusiastically asked when she could have the other eye done.
The femtosecond lasers also make a 3D map of the eye. Every eye is different and this 3D mapping and images makes it easier for the doctor to make a plan for the surgery. With this ability doctors can plan for the small variances from eye to eye such as shape and corneal placement. By being able to make these adjustments every individual has a safer surgery because it is able to be more precisely tuned to them.
With the femtosecond laser incisions are smaller. They are cut in a way as to be “self-sealing”. These smaller and “self-sealing” incisions reduce the risk of infection. Because the incision done with a laser is regulated by a computer it is more precise. Surgeons say that if you can always put your incision in the exact same place, the exact same size every time you will consistently have better results every time.
Many doctors are excited about the fact that with the lasers they can reliably repeat results time after time and patient after patient. Investors believe that this technology allows surgeons to have a better level of control and predictability over critical steps in the manual process of cataract removal. This allows these critical steps to be more reliable and precise. The fact that the automation of these procedures allows more reliable results every time makes the procedures safer. While the surgeons believe that this new field of technology has the potential to automate those critical steps making reproducible and safer operations improving patient outcomes.
Patients of this surgery are amazed at the speed of the procedure and of the recovery time. Patients have gone on record with resuming their life the same day up to and including treating the surgical staff to dinner as a thank you. Many patients that have undergone this procedure have been repeat patients coming back after a few weeks to have the procedure done on their other eye. These patients often have better vision then before the cataracts formed because of the corrected astigmatism.