University of Colorado Eye Center announces first-in-Denver Laser Cataract Surgery – LIVING WELL Magazine

The University of Colorado Eye Center Announces First-in-Denver Laser Cataract Surgery

Amazing Advances in Cataract Surgery Make the Surgery Even More Precise and Effective

By Richard S. Davidson, M.D., Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs, Specialist in Cornea and Cataract Surgery, University of Colorado Eye Center, University of Colorado School of Medicine, East Denver LIVING WELL Magazine

With more than three million procedures performed annually, chances are good that you or a loved one will need cataract surgery at some point. While it’s unfortunate that so many of us will develop this condition, it’s good to know that cataract surgery is almost always a painless, outpatient procedure with excellent results. And, importantly, the new laser technology coming to the University of Colorado Eye Center in November will immediately improve outcomes and increase patient options.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a cloudiness of the lens inside the eye. The lens sits in the middle of the eye and helps it focus. When we are young, our lens is clear like the lens in our glasses. As we age, our lens gradually becomes cloudier and this cloudiness, which is similar to having a “dirty window” inside the eye, begins to affect our vision in subtle ways. Some people find they need more light to read, or that driving at night is suddenly difficult. Others may see a glare around haloes and lights. Most people experience a gradual decrease in visual acuity. These changes in vision can be extremely frustrating for anyone used to seeing clearly. As this becomes more distracting, surgery can often remove the cataract and restore better vision.

How is cataract surgery done?

During cataract surgery the surgeon replaces the existing, cloudy lens with an artificial lens. Very precise measurements of the eye are obtained prior to surgery in order to determine what power lens to put inside the eye. This artificial lens is analogous to placing a contact lens inside the eye and, as such, the surgeon is able to correct the patient’s vision for distance or near, and can correct their astigmatism, or a combination of these corrections.

For the past 30 years, the standard way of removing a cataract involved making a small incision inside the eye and then using an ultrasound probe to gently emulsify the lens (this is called phacoemulsification). While this is a very safe and successful way to perform cataract surgery, there is now an even more precise way to perform this surgery that includes performing parts of it with a laser.

The Future of Cataract Surgery Debuts in Denver

On November 7, 2011, the University of Colorado Eye Center will be taking delivery of the LenSX ® laser. Most ophthalmologists believe laser-based cataract surgery is the future of and will become the gold standard of cataract surgery. With the LenSX ® laser, surgeons create custom, blade-free incisions that are extraordinarily precise, thus eliminating some of the variables that have complicated cataract surgery even with modern techniques.

The LenSX ® laser is an FDA-approved intraocular femtosecond laser designed specifically for refractive cataract surgery. Femtosecond lasers are lasers emitting pulses with durations between a few femtoseconds and hundreds of femtoseconds. A femtosecond is equal to one quadrillionth of a second. The LenSX ® laser has received FDA approval for anterior capsulotomy (creating an opening in the cataract), lens fragmentation (breaking the cataract into small pieces) and all corneal incisions at the time of cataract surgery.

The LenSX ® laser is designed to provide a high-resolution image of the eye in order to precisely guide the laser. This allows the surgeon to create a perfectly sized, shaped and centered capsulotomy and effectively fragment the lens for removal by irrigation and aspiration (vacuum) or low-energy phacoemulsification. In addition, the laser can create all required corneal incisions with near-perfect dimension and architecture, and provide a refractive solution to pre-existing astigmatism (irregular corneal shape) by creating corneal incisions of precise shape and depth as programmed by the surgeon.

There are more than 20 LenSX ® blade-free femtosecond cataract laser units being operated in the U.S. today, with a handful being operated internationally. Thousands of procedures have been performed in the U.S. to-date. The University of Colorado Eye Center is proud to be the first in Denver to offer this exciting new technology.

For more information about the LenSX ® laser or to schedule an appointment/evaluation, please contact Kristin Kaufman, LenSX ® coordinator at the University of Colorado Eye Center at 720-848-5092.