Is cataract surgery done by a laser?

by Dr. Robert Benza, MD 11. April 2014 08:18

Dr. Robert Benza

For years, most patients thought that cataract surgery was performed by a laser. Actually, the technique most used is phacoemulsification. This is a high speed ultrasound which vibrates and breaks the cataract in pieces allowing easy removal.
So why do most patients feel surgery was done with a laser? If someone develops a clouding of the membrane (which sits behind the artificial lens) after cataract surgery, they are diagnosed with a secondary cataract. This is more minor than the original cataract.  In this case,  a laser is used in an office setting (not the operating room) to open the membrane and restore vision. This may be needed weeks, months or years (or not at all)  after the original cataract removal and lens implantation. This secondary cataract is what has confused many patients. The original procedure was performed with an ultrasound not a laser.
Why is this important? Technologies are now developing where the original cataract can be broken up by a laser. This is a new technology and there are very few lasers currently in the United States. As this technology develops, most experts feel the cost will be half a million dollars per laser. With the increasing cost of healthcare, the development of sophisticated and safer technologies will be difficult. Many experts feel that the cost of newer treatments will be passed on to patients if they opt for the latest technologies. There will be many challenging decisions for patients and physicians as we move forward during these times.
Most importantly, protect those eyes!!

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