A new laser approach to cataract surgery may be safer and more efficient than current methods, two new studies suggest.
While femtosecond lasers have been used in refractive surgeries, such as LASIK, for years, the laser lens fragmentation procedure uses a special type of femtosecond laser that can reach deep into the eye for cataract removal. It has been approved by the FDA, but is not yet widely available in the U.S.
In one study, the newer laser procedure was used to pretreat cataracts. This was done in an effort to reduce the amount of ultrasound energy required to soften cataracts for removal because ultrasound energy has been associated with slower vision recovery and cornea problems after surgery. The study found 45 percent less ultrasound energy was needed in the laser-pretreated eyes.
"The combination of precision and simplification that is possible with the femtosecond laser represents a major advance for this surgery,” said William W. Culbertson, M.D., of the Bascom Palm Eye Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
In another study, Mark Packer, M.D., of Oregon Health and Sciences University measured the newer laser procedure’s safety in the loss of corneal endothelial cells after cataract surgery. Out of 225 eyes treated with laser lens fragmentation, none of the corneal cells were lost, compared to 63 eyes treated with standard cataract methods that experienced cell loss of 1 to 7 percent.
The new procedure "is likely to mean better vision and fewer health concerns for cataract patients, over the long term,” said Dr. Packer.