Differences in Traditional and Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery by Allison Dublin, M.D.

September 16, 2020

Dr. Allison Dublin is a comprehensive ophthalmologist, glaucoma specialist, and cataract surgeon at the Marietta Eye Clinic.

Vision loss due to cataract cannot be prevented. In the early stages of cataracts, your ophthalmologist will monitor the progression, updating your prescription for glasses or contacts as necessary. When your lenses become so clouded that updates to your prescription no longer help, surgery is the only treatment option. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL), is implanted. There are two methods of doing this. You can opt for traditional cataract surgery or laser-assisted cataract surgery.

Traditional Cataract Surgery

Traditional cataract surgery is performed manually with a surgical blade. An ophthalmologist makes small incisions in your cornea. The capsule, the bag that contains your cataract, is opened. An ultrasound handpiece is used to break up the cataract. The pieces of your cataract are suctioned out using the handpiece. Finally, an intraocular lens is inserted where the cataract was before. The incision may or may not require stitches. Traditional cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in the world. It is universally recognized as being both safe and effective.

Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery

In laser-assisted cataract surgery, an ophthalmologist uses a laser rather than a surgical blade to make the incisions. The laser can also be used to reduce astigmatism and to soften the cataract before breaking it up. The incision may or may not require stitches.

What are the Differences?

Laser-assisted surgery is more precise and consistent, which can reduce risk and potentially provide better vision after surgery. Because a laser can be used to soften the cataract, less ultrasound energy is needed to break it up, which decreases the risk of swelling of the cornea. As previously mentioned, laser-assisted cataract surgery can treat astigmatism while also removing cataract. Laser-assisted surgery is also safer for patients who have a weak zonules, the support structures for the cataract.

Who is a Good Candidate for Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery?

Only certain patients qualify for laser-assisted cataract surgery, as regulated by Medicare. At this time, you may qualify for laser-assisted surgery if you meet 1 of 2 conditions:

  • You choose a premium IOL — accommodative, multifocal, or toric lenses — or
  • You have astigmatism and choose to have it corrected during surgery.

With premium IOLs, use of a laser might be recommended because the alignment of the lens may make noticeable differences in your visual outcome. A laser will offer the best possible lens alignment.

If you have astigmatism, the laser can be used to correct astigmatism, with or without the use of toric IOLs.

Cataract Surgery: More Than Just Lens Replacement

Due to advances in technology, cataract surgery offers more benefits than ever. Modern intraocular lenses can help patients see better than they could even before cataracts, and laser-assisted surgery reduces risk of side effects. If you are considering cataract surgery, talk to your ophthalmologist about what you’d like to achieve through surgery and whether laser-assisted surgery might be beneficial for you.

More About Cataract Surgeon Allison Dublin, M.D.

Dr. Dublin is an ophthalmologist with the Marietta Eye Clinic who specializes in glaucoma and cataracts. Dr. Dublin received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Texas and her medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center. Dr. Dublin is a member of the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Medical Association, the Houston Ophthalmological Society, the Texas Medical Association, and the Texas Ophthalmological Association. Read her full bio here.

References and Additional Resources

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. It describes itself as a “global community of 32,000 medical doctors who protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public.” Its website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) describes itself as the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation’s health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry, optometric professionals, and optometry students.

High-Tech Toric IOL Axis Alignment

https://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/high-tech-toric-iol-axis-alignment

Traditional Cataract Surgery vs. Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/traditional-vs-laser-assisted-cataract-surgery

MD Roundtable: 3 Femto Surgeons Discuss Their Perspectives and Insights on FLACS

https://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/md-roundtable-3-femto-surgeons-discuss-their-persp

High-Tech Toric IOL Axis Alignment

https://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/high-tech-toric-iol-axis-alignment

Traditional Cataract Surgery vs. Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/traditional-vs-laser-assisted-cataract-surgery

MD Roundtable: 3 Femto Surgeons Discuss Their Perspectives and Insights on FLACS

https://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/md-roundtable-3-femto-surgeons-discuss-their-persp

Set Up A Consultation

When it comes to your eyes, nothing beats a face-to-face consultation with one of our eye doctors. Request an appointment to meet with one of our specialists.

Call Us: 770-427-8111

Text Us: 770-427-0400

Request Appointment