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Are There Different Types Of Cataract Surgery?


Yes, there are different types of cataract surgery. The technique used by a cataract surgeon depends on many factors, including the health of the eye undergoing the procedure, the surgical equipment used and the expertise of the surgeon.

In the United States and other developed countries, the most common type of cataract procedure performed today is called phacoemulsification (or "phaco") cataract surgery with foldable intraocular lens (IOL) implantation.

Eye doctor and patient laughing together in the exam room.
An exciting new technology is laser-assisted cataract surgery, which offers a higher level of precision for certain steps in a cataract procedure.

This procedure requires only very small incisions, and no stitches are needed at the end of surgery. Hand-held instruments are used to gain access to the cataract, which is then broken up with ultrasonic energy and removed from the eye in small fragments with gentle suction.

A special applicator is then used to insert the flexible IOL, which unfolds inside the eye. The surgeon securely positions the IOL in the same location where the natural lens resided (directly behind the pupil).

Laser-assisted cataract surgery — also called LACS or laser cataract surgery — is a modern variation of the standard phaco cataract procedure.

In laser cataract surgery, a number of steps that traditionally have been performed with a hand-held surgical instrument are instead done with a computer-controlled, high-speed laser for added precision. These steps include: making the initial incisions in the eye; creating an opening in the anterior capsule of the lens to gain access to the cataract; and fragmenting the cloudy lens prior to its removal from the eye.

During your pre-operative eye exam and consultation, ask your cataract surgeon for more details about the different types of cataract surgery and which procedure and techniques are best for your needs.

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Dr. Vance ThompsonAbout the Reviewer: Vance Thompson, MD, FACS, is the director of refractive surgery at Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls, S.D. He also is professor of ophthalmology at the Sanford USD School of Medicine, a leading researcher in technologies for laser and implant vision correction and a member of All About Vision's editorial advisory board.

Page updated August 2017


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