Cataract surgery is the most common type of surgery performed in the world. The surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia in which you are sedated with intravenous medication. Because of the anesthesia, you must be healthy for surgery and be cleared by your internist for this elective surgery within 30 days of your surgery. You are able to return home on the same day after the surgery. Please note that even though the surgery itself is often quite short, most of our patients spend about half of the day with us when you factor in the time before and after surgery.
In standard cataract surgery, a small incision is made in the surface of the eye called the cornea with a scalpel and another incision is made in the capsule around the cataract to gain access to the lens. Then an ultrasound probe technology, called phacoemulsification, is used to break the cataract into tiny pieces. The pieces are then removed and an artificial lens (also known as an intraocular lens) is placed inside the eye. Usually the incisions are self-sealing and there is often no need for a suture. The eye is then protected with a clear plastic shield.
Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery
A newer technology to help remove cataracts is the femtosecond laser-assisted cataract system (FLACS). This is different than laser refractive surgery (like LASIK or PRK). The laser, in this case, is used to assist with cataract surgery. During the FLACS procedure the surgeon uses a detailed map of your eye to place precise femtosecond laser incisions on your cornea and lens capsule in a way that is customized to your eye. Corneal astigmatism can be reduced by these customized incisions. The laser also softens the lens, making cataract removal more efficient. The remainder of the surgery is similar to traditional cataract surgery.
Femtosecond Laser (LenSx Laser System)
The laser used for cataract surgery is a femtosecond laser because it shoots energy at a rate called femtoseconds. One femtosecond is one quadrillionth of a second; because of this pulse rate, a femtosecond laser can accurately break apart tissue and still be very gentle on the surrounding tissue.