Jun 19, 2011
1. The new Lensx and Lensar femtosecond lasers can only perform certain parts of the cataract surgery procedure. The laser can make the incision into the eye, the opening into the lens capsule (capsulorhexis) and soften the central part of the cataract into smaller pieces. Unfortunately, the standard ultrasound hand piece is still needed to remove the cataract from the eye and the irrigation/aspiration hand piece will still be needed to remove the lens cortex, as before.
2. It remains unclear if the lasers will actually improve visual outcomes. Early studies have shown that the lasers can make a statistically more precise capsulorhexis and that this might in turn lead to a slightly more consistent IOL position in the eye.
3. The laser will make the surgery significantly longer, probably about 10 to 15 minutes extra, but that might come down a little with experience.
4. Expect to pay a large fee out of pocket for laser cataract surgery, above and beyond what insurance will pay. This will be considered a custom upgrade.
5. Other than the laser making the incisions and pre-chopping the cataract, the recovery and postoperative course will be mostly unchanged.
Trust me when I tell you that you are going to be hearing much, much more about this subject. I just wanted to get the conversation started and try to be as unbiased as possible. There is already a big controversy among cataract surgeons as to whether the lasers will improve results or just make the surgery longer, more complicated, and much more expensive in a time when soaring healthcare costs are a major concern. More to come.