The question as to whether cataract surgery is done with a laser comes up from time to time. While the beginning portion of the procedure can be done with a laser at this time, I have not elected to incorporate that technology into my surgical practice. My three main reasons are that at this point the laser makes the procedure cost considerably more, it makes the procedure take longer and there is no convincing evidence that the laser improves visual outcome.
What the laser can do at this time is make the initial incision in the eye, something that I now do quite nicely by hand with a specially designed disposable instrument. It can help manage astigmatism (turn a football shaped eye into a rounded one) but this is more effectively done with special toric lens implants. The final intended benefit is that it can soften the cataract so the ultrasound we use to remove it can work a little quicker. The problem is that the few saved seconds do not appear to translate into better vision or a quicker recovery.
I’m not saying I’ll never use a laser to help with the first few steps of cataract surgery, what I am saying is that at this time the expense just does not seem worth it for the patient. Cataract surgery gets better all the time and I am sure the industry is up to the challenge to make this technology more efficient and affordable.
For now laser cataract surgery is really a marketing device, it impresses some patients that their eye surgery would be partially done with a laser. This is not like when LASIK changed from using a blade to a laser. That was a major improvement in safety and why we now jokingly refer to it as “LASIK for Chickens.”
Once you are ready for cataract surgery, we will thoroughly discuss all your options including special implants that do have a major impact on how well you see after the procedure.
Dr. Martha Jay is a Board Certified Ophthalmologist (Eye Physician & Surgeon) who specializes in medical and surgical eye care including small incision cataract surgery and blade-free LASIK. She practices at Madison Medical Eye Care with offices in Mequon & Saukville, Wisconsin.
For more eye care information, call 262-241-1919 or visit www.MadisonMedicalEyeCare.com.