Patient Education

A growing library of easy-to-read informational pages about a host of common eye problems.


Seattle Laser Cataract Surgery

Benefits of Cataract Surgery
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The structures of the eye that allow light to enter are normally clear and transparent, such as the cornea and lens. This ensures that the light can completely reach the retina and form a visual picture. However, as people age, the lens material becomes stiff and thick. The proteins in the lens start to change color and clump together. This produces a cloudiness or opacity in the lens which is referred to as a cataract. Read more about cataracts here.

What is Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery?

Laster Cataract Surgery
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Laser-assisted cataract surgery makes use of femtosecond lasers – lasers that emit pulses very rapidly – for refractive cataract surgery. In a usual cataract surgery, the doctor manually makes incisions in the cornea, opens the outer layer of the lens called the capsule, removes the defective lens, and then puts in an artificial lens implant. This implant, called an intraocular lens implant or IOL, will permanently function as the lens in your eye. During this procedure, doctors traditionally use hand-held instruments like metal or diamond-bladed scalpels to make incisions and open the cataract’s outer capsule layer. Ultrasound is then used to remove the cataract material from the eye. This standard procedure is referred to as phacoemulsification.

Laser-assisted cataract surgery uses rapid lasers to make more precise corneal incisions. The outer lens capsule is opened by the laser, and the laser can be used to soften the cataract so that removal is much faster and uses less energy. The femtosecond laser may also make incisions in the peripheral cornea, which helps correct astigmatism (this is called a “LRI”). Overall, the Alcon LenSx laser-assisted procedure eliminates the manual incision steps and uses lasers assisted by computer equipment to perform automated, precise incisions and aid in cataract removal.

Laster Cataract Surgery
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The FDA has tested and approved the use of femtosecond lasers for performing cataract surgery. However, Medicare and some private insurance payers do not consider it a necessary procedure for assisting cataract surgery. Additional costs from this procedure will be your responsibility as a patient. Your eye surgeon will discuss these details with you. Though cataract surgery can still be successfully performed without femtosecond lasers, this procedure is still recognized by experts to be a more precise method of performing cataract surgery.

How is it Different From the Current Standard Phacoemulsification? How is it Better?

Laser Cataract Surgery Procedure
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The current standard phacoemulsification procedure combines manual techniques to incise the cornea and capsular layer together with an ultrasound instrument to aid in breaking up the capsule and suctioning out the lens.

The use of laser-assisted cataract surgery is different because it replaces or assists in the manual aspect of standard cataract surgery. Without the use of any handheld blades, it is able to perform the incisions on your cornea and lens capsule with higher accuracy than if this is done manually. It also aids in breaking up the lens for easier removal and replacement.

The LenSx system was the first femtosecond laser approved for use in assisting cataract surgery. It promises a better, smarter and faster procedure, with more precise IOL placement and less overall energy usage. This can be safer for the cornea, especially in those that have diseases such as Fuch’s Corneal Dystrophy. Using LenSx in the procedure allows the most difficult steps of cataract surgery to be taken over by laser equipment. The procedure is assisted by image-guided software, making it easier for the surgeon to perform the surgery and successfully improve patient outcomes. Undeniably, the LenSx-assisted procedure is the most technologically advanced choice for cataract removal.

How Can I Find Out More?

At Eye Associates Northwest, we are proud to be the first to offer the LenSx system in the Seattle area. If you are thinking about undergoing LenSx laser-assisted cataract surgery, your ophthalmologist at Eye Associates Northwest will gladly discuss the procedure with you and answer any questions.