The Gulfcoast Eye Care Doctors have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.
Modern vs Laser Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is a procedure to remove a cloudy lens in your eye and replace it with an artificial one. Cataract surgery can be done in two ways: as modern cataract surgery or as laser-assisted cataract surgery. While both ways result in better vision, there are important differences to consider.
Cataracts develop when normal proteins in your natural eye lens start to break down, usually due to aging.1 A cataract causes your normally clear lens to become cloudy, like a foggy windshield. Once a cataract develops, the only way to reverse the effects and restore visual clarity is to have the cataract surgically removed through either modern or laser cataract surgery.
Modern cataract surgery is very common and is widely recognized as very safe and effective.2,3 It is typically covered by most insurance companies including Medicare.2
Laser cataract surgery is essentially the same procedure as modern cataract surgery, except that a portion of the surgery is performed with a laser. Laser cataract surgery costs more than traditional cataract surgery, and the laser technology portion is not covered by most insurance plans.2
At the beginning of modern cataract surgery, Dr. Manning numbs your eye with anesthetic eye drops and gives you a mild sedative. He then makes a tiny incision with a microkeratome and inserts a special probe to break up and remove your cloudy lens.
Dr. Manning then inserts a clear artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. The tiny incision is closed with a special liquid; sutures are rarely needed.
With laser-assisted cataract surgery, a device is placed over your eye to scan your cornea and map your treatment plan.2 The device sends the results to a computer that programs the laser, which is used to make the incision and break up your cataract.2 The IOL is placed in your eye and the incision is closed in the same way as the traditional procedure.2
Both cataract surgery methods are very successful and safe, and the recovery and results of both are excellent.3 Many patients see clearly immediately after cataract surgery and are able to drive 24-48 hours after surgery, although it is also normal for vision to experience fluctuating or blurry vision for a week or two after surgery.
A laser may make more precise incisions. However, studies have not shown that lasers provide any better outcomes or result in any fewer complications.2,3
Both modern cataract surgery and laser-assisted cataract surgery can be done with advanced intraocular lenses that may reduce your need for glasses or contact lenses.
There are different types of intraocular lenses, and your choice of IOL will determine your vision after cataract surgery. A monofocal IOL will replace your lens and resolve cataract symptoms. Advanced IOL options offer a range of vision correction options and can improve vision at all distances and correct vision issues such as astigmatism
If you are interested in reducing your dependence on corrective eyewear after surgery, Dr. Manning will discuss which type of IOL could work best for you and your vision needs. Generally, only standard IOLs are covered by insurance, and patients choose to pay out-of-pocket for advanced lenses for vision correction.1,4 The team at Gulfcoast can help you check with your insurance provider to determine your coverage and any out-of-pocket costs.
Dr. Manning will give you expert advice to help you decide whether modern cataract surgery or laser-assisted cataract surgery is right for you. You may not be able to have a laser procedure if you’ve had glaucoma surgery or have certain physical features such as deep-set eyes.3
Among the factors to consider are cost and insurance coverage. While the cataract surgery procedure is generally covered, the laser technology portion often is not.2
Dr. Manning has considered the extra cost that patients would have to pay with a laser procedure and recognizes that paying for both the laser technology and an advanced IOL may be a heavy burden for some. For this reason, he offers modern cataract surgery for his Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg cataract surgery patients.
1 What Are Cataracts? American Academy of Ophthalmology. Available at: < a href=”https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-cataracts” target=”_blank”>https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-cataracts. Accessed January 22, 2020.
2 Traditional Cataract Surgery vs. Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/traditional-vs-laser-assisted-cataract-surgery. Accessed January 22, 2020
3 Dick HB, Schultz T. A Review of Laser-Assisted Versus Traditional Phacoemulsification Cataract Surgery. Ophthalmol Ther. 2017 Jun; 6(1): 7–18.
4 Cataract Surgery. Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cataract-surgery/about/pac-20384765. Accessed January 22, 2020