Laser Surgery vs. Traditional Surgery For Cataract
What is Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery is a commonly performed procedure to remove a clouded lens of the eye that causes visual impairment. It’s safe, effective and is a life-enhancing operation that’s carried out under local anesthetic with appropriate sedation.
There are two types of cataract surgery: Laser-assisted and traditional.
What is Traditional Cataract Surgery?
Traditional cataract surgery is known as Phacoemulsification. A scalpel is used to make a tiny incision in the cornea. A probe is inserted behind the pupil and into the capsule that surrounds the lens. Ultrasound is used to break up the damaged lens. The pieces are then suctioned out and the lens is replaced with an artificial replacement, known as an intraocular lens (IOL). The incision is then closed with a self-sealing liquid, often not requiring stitches.
What is Laser Cataract Surgery?
Laser cataract surgery, sometimes referred to as laser-assisted cataract surgery, is a more advanced version of the traditional method, although the result is virtually the same. A device is placed over the eye that definitively maps the surface, lens, and interior of the eye. This data is used to program the exact location, size, and depth for the incision and access to the lens. This is carried out by laser, which performs a dual-task—that of the incision and entry to the lens capsule, and also to soften the cataract. Again, ultrasound is used to fracture the lens into pieces, which are then suctioned out. The IOL is inserted and the incision is closed without stitches.
Cataract Surgery: Laser vs. Traditional
Laser cataract surgery has some advantages over traditional. These are:
- Speed of the procedure: The intricate mapping of the eye means the surgeon can make precise incisions in less time.
- Accuracy and consistency: Thanks to the computerized, individual data, the accuracy of the procedure can be more consistent. It also allows for improved visualization, meaning the lens can be placed with higher precision.
- Astigmatism can be treated simultaneously: The laser can also reshape the cornea during the process, so allowing for the treatment of astigmatism during the same procedure.
Is Laser Cataract Surgery Suitable for Everyone?
When considering laser surgery vs. traditional surgery for cataract, your surgeon will discuss both options with you. Which is the best will depend on your needs and expectations.
- Do you have astigmatism? If so, having it corrected during the cataract procedure will be advantageous. Laser cataract surgery will probably be suggested if this is the case.
- Do you want the best possible vision without glasses? In this case, the best option will be for a premium lens, such as a toric, multifocal, or one of the most advanced IOL lenses available. Laser cataract surgery presents the best option in this scenario.
- Do you want your cataract surgery to be covered by medical insurance? Many insurance policies don’t cover laser cataract surgery. This could mean that you opt for traditional cataract surgery over a laser-assisted procedure.
It’s important to know that an eye surgeon can’t offer laser cataract surgery unless you meet one of the two conditions: the correction of astigmatism during the procedure or the insertion of a premium IOL.
Which has a Shorter Recovery Time—Laser or Traditional Cataract Surgery?
There is no difference in the recovery time when it comes to laser-assisted cataract surgery vs. traditional. Some people experience an almost immediate improvement in their vision. Other’s find it takes a week or two to clear. For both surgeries, it generally takes around 3 months for a full recovery.
Which has Better Outcomes? Laser or Traditional Cataract Surgery?
Multiple studies have shown that neither type of cataract surgery has been proven to have a better outcome. The results are largely down to the skill of the surgeon carrying out the procedure. Both offer an equally low risk for complications during or after the operation.
For those who want to improve their vision and are happy to wear glasses for some activities (reading, driving, etc.) then traditional cataract surgery is often the best option. If you have astigmatism to correct and/or you require the clearest vision that can be provided by an advanced IOL (a life free from corrective glasses in all situations), then laser-assisted cataract surgery will probably be the solution.