Cataract surgery is a microsurgical procedure that can be done in a variety of ways.
The lens in your eye is contained a thin tissue bag (the lens capsule, often referred to as the “capsular bag”). During cataract surgery, an opening is made in the front of the capsule and the clouded lens (the cataract) is removed. The doctor replaces it with an artificial lens.
In most cases the artificial lens implant is placed within the capsular bag. If the capsular bag is damaged or unstable, a lens may be placed outside of the capsular bag, either in front of the iris (anterior chamber lens) or behind the iris (sulcal lens).
Most cataract surgeries are performed using a technique known as phacoemulsification. An alternative approach is extra-capsular cataract extraction.
This is the most common type of cataract surgery. It uses sound waves (ultrasound) delivered by a small probe within the front of the eye to break the lens into small pieces. Sometimes a laser is used too. The doctor removes the pieces of lens using suction.
Extra-capsular cataract extraction
A larger incision is made to remove the lens and afterwards the wound needs to be sutured. This method may be recommended in cases such as very advanced cataracts or if you’ve had an eye injury in the past.
Occasionally doctors need to convert from phacoemulsification to an extracapsular cataract extraction if there are complications during the procedure.
There are several advantages to using phacoemulsification over extracapsular cataract extraction:
- usually no sutures are needed, so you get less eye irritation
- it uses a smaller incision (usually 2.8mm or less)
- the wound usually heals faster
- you can expect to get clear vision faster
- there’s less chance of astigmatism (an irregularity in the curvature of the front of your eye that can cause blurred vision) because sutures aren’t needed.
Treating glaucoma at the same time
If you have mild to moderate open angle glaucoma in addition to cataracts, there’s a tiny device that can be implanted at the same time as your cataract surgery. It may enable you to manage the pressures in your eyes and reduce your need for eye drops. Known as the iStent®, it isn’t currently covered by Medicare.
HCF only funds devices listed on the Federal Government’s approved prosthesis list.