What Is The Difference Between Standard Cataract Surgery and Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery?

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Most folks are terrified of any surgery related to the eye, but modern medicine has become so advanced that cataract surgery is a largely routine procedure. In fact, a patient can have Dr. Mark Bearman or Dr. Sarah Hays remove their cataracts and be out that same day at a surgery center in Alabaster or Birmingham. Both laser-assisted cataract surgery and standard cataract surgery involve three main steps:

  1. An incision in the cornea
  2. Phacoemulsification
  3. Insertion of the new lens

Before we work through the steps, the first question you have must be: am I awake during this procedure? The answer is yes, but patients are given a topical anesthetic for their eyes, and an additional sedative to allow them to relax. While you can rest assured the procedure is quite safe, those medications are there to provide for some additional peace of mind and a relaxed experience.

laser-assisted cataract surgery

Getting Started: The Corneal Incision

One of Vision First Eye Center’s cataract surgeons makes a small incision at the side of your cornea, the transparent layer at the front of your eye. Viscoelastic is applied to the eye to ensure it maintains its shape throughout the surgery. It effectively holds open the space between the cataract and the cornea.

Phacoemulsification: The Main Event

A probe is inserted into the incision to break up the cataract through a process known as phacoemulsification. A “phaco” probe breaks up the cataract-affected lens into smaller pieces using ultrasound technology, so that it can be removed through aspiration. In other words: the pieces get surgically vacuumed out. Before the development of this cataract surgery technique, the lens had to be removed in its entirety, which necessitated a larger incision that presented more risk of infection and complications.

Insertion of the Intraocular Lens: The Finale

Once your natural lens has been removed, the surgeon can insert a folded intraocular lens (IOL). After it has been safely inserted through the incision, the new lens unfolds within the eye. The viscoelastic is rinsed out and the cataract surgery is completed. Corneal incisions are self-healing, so stitches are rarely needed.

What’s The Difference Between Standard Cataract Surgery and Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery?

When most people think of lasers and eye surgery, the first thing that comes to mind is LASIK. They have the right idea. In a nutshell, standard cataract surgery uses surgical blades whereas lasers assist laser cataract surgery, more accurately known as laser-assisted cataract surgery.

The word “assist” is included in the name because technically the laser does not take over the job of the doctor when removing the cataract. The cataract is still removed manually using phacoemulsification. Instead, the femtosecond laser:

  • Makes the initial incisions in the cornea
  • Opens the lens capsule
  • Helps to break the cataract-affected lens into smaller pieces prior to phacoemulsification

The accuracy of the laser is what makes the process more superior to a surgeon manually carrying out these steps. Vision First Eye Center was one of the early adopters of laser-assisted cataract surgery providing its valued patients in Birmingham, Alabaster, Trussville, and Pell City a bladeless alternative.

Vision First Eye Center has a range of artificial intraocular lenses for their patients to choose from. Cataracts should not impact your life more than they already have, and routine check ups can catch cataracts before they become a problem. Call us today to book an eye exam or to find out your options to remove existing cataracts.

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