Femto Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is a common procedure where an ophthalmologist removes the eye lens and replaces it, typically with an artificial lens. A cataract causes the lens of the eye—which is normally clear—to become cloudy. Over time, cataracts can make vision blurry, hazy or less colorful. They can make it difficult to read, drive a vehicle or recognize facial expressions.
Cataract surgery has historically been performed with incisions made by a surgical blade on the cornea of the eye. The doctor then uses a procedure called phacoemulsification (or phaco), using ultrasound to break up the lens that has become hardened and cloudy before removing the lens and replacing it with a new one.
What is Femto Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery?
Femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery (FLACS) allows surgeons to to use a laser to make bladeless corneal incisions that are more precise than the cuts made in traditional cataract surgery. The laser is the same technology that has been used in LASIK since 2001. It was approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for use in cataract surgery in 2010.
In femto-laser assisted cataract surgery, a camera or ultrasound device is first placed over the eye to map the surface as well as collect information about the lens to be replaced. From there, a computer takes the results and programs the laser to make incisions at precise locations, sizes and depth, specific to each patient’s eye.
The laser treatment is performed at the beginning of the procedure. It only lasts about 30 seconds. The laser makes incisions that are designed to close back up on their own from just the pressure of the eye once the procedure is completed. These self-sealing incisions reduce the risk of complications associated the flap cut during traditional cataract surgery.
To remove the cataract through the small incisions on the eye, it must be broken up into pieces that are then suctioned out. The femtosecond laser procedure softens the cataract before the surgeon enters the eye. Traditional cataract surgery uses ultrasound after the surgeon has opened the eye. Breaking up the cataract with the laser first allows the cataract to be taken out with less phacoemulsification energy, and thus less stress on the eye. The ophthalmologist will then go in and use an ultrasound probe to finish breaking up the lens before it is vacuumed out and replaced with an interocular lens implant, or IOL.
As a result of less phacoemulsification energy on the eye, recovery tends to go faster with less inflammation for patients who receive femto laser-assisted surgery. It is also believed to be more effective in breaking up particularly dense cataracts.
Femto laser-assisted surgery can also be used during the procedure to help correct a mild astigmatism by relaxing the cornea with limbal incisions that are more precise than hand-made cuts.
Who is a good candidate for femto laser-assisted cataract surgery?
Ask your Union Square Eye Care ophthalmologist if you are a candidate for femto laser-assisted cataract surgery. Some factors may include:
If you have an astigmatism and are interested in having it corrected at the same time as your cataract surgery, a femto laser-assisted cataract surgery may make sense for you, as the laser is effective in making incisions to reshape the cornea.
If your replacement lens is a premium lens—such as toric or multifocal that corrects astigmatism—FLACS may be an option for you. Laser cataract removal allows surgeons to better map the lens capsule, which holds the lens. Premium lenses must be placed precisely and centered, which is easier with FLACS.
Recovery from Femto Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is successful in restoring the vision of most who have the procedure. Some people will see results immediately. Other patients’ vision may clear in 1-2 weeks. It takes approximately 2-3 months to fully recover from cataract surgery.
After cataract surgery, you will stay in the doctor’s office for an hour or so as they monitor your eye and its pressure. Vision often begins improving within a few days. Vision may be blurry at first as the eye heals and adjusts. Your doctor may recommend an eye patch or protective shield the day of the procedure.
Some patients experience itching and mild discomfort for a couple of days after surgery. Touching or rubbing the eye should be avoided. Eyedrops or other medications may be prescribed to prevent infection, reduce inflammation and control eye pressure, though these medications are sometimes injected into the eye during the procedure.
Colors may seem brighter after surgery because of the new, clear lens. A cataract is usually yellow- or brown-tinted, muting colors, which will appear more vibrant post-surgery.
After a couple of days, most of the discomfort should disappear. An appointment with your ophthalmologist will be scheduled for a day or two following the surgery, the following week and then again about a month post-op to monitor your progress.