Cataract Surgery: How It is Done

The majority of cataracts can be treated. Cataract surgery is a common procedure with about 98 percent of patients enjoying an improved vision when there are no other existing eye conditions. A couple of small incisions are created in the cornea, the transparent dome-shaped tissue which covers the eye’s front part. A viscous material is injected into the front part of the eyes in order to help in maintaining its shape during the operation. Such material is made from substances which take place in the body naturally.

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Phacoemulsification

The cataract surgeon makes an opening in the lens capsule, the natural bag or sac which holds the lens in place. A balanced salt solution is used to separate the lens form the capsule. After opening the lens capsule and allowing the lens to freely move inside the capsule, an ultrasound device is used for breaking the lens into small pieces and sucking it out of the eye. This procedure is called phacoemulsification. Before the development of this approach, the removal of the lens was done in one solid piece through a big incision (8mm to 12mm). This surgery came with more risk and had longer recovery time.

Following the removal of the lens, more viscous material is injected into the capsule in order to hold it open and make room for the new artificial lens. The surgeon will insert the folded artificial lens into the capsule or sac where it can unfold. The viscous material which maintained the eye’s shape during the surgery is removed. Often, the two incisions will heal by themselves and don’t require stitches.

Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery

In removing cataracts, the role of laser is starting to unfold. Since 2001, ophthalmic surgery has been using Femtosecond lasers which have been used in cataract surgery in the late 2000s. The first laser-assisted cataract surgery was carried in Hungary in 2008. After the FDA approved the procedure, the first laser-assisted cataract surgery was done in the U.S. in 2010. This procedure has since gained popularity and acceptance.

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The laser doesn’t substitute manual cataract surgery. It only assists in removing the cataract, thus, surgeons still use phacoemulsification for removing the cataract. The laser does three major steps in operating the cataract.

  • corneal incisions
  • Opens the capsule that has the cataract
  • initial sectioning of the cataract into small pieces

Laser performs these steps with precision. Also, it can be used for making corneal incisions for treating some amounts and kinds of astigmatism.