What is a Femtosecond Laser? by Puneet Panda, M.D.

April 30, 2020

Dr. Puneet Panda is a comprehensive ophthalmologist at the Marietta Eye Clinic who specializes in cataract surgery, dry eye, cornea, and LASIK and refractive surgery.

With continuing advancements in technology, cataract surgery is safer and more effective than ever. One of the latest advancements is the femtosecond laser – an infrared laser that emits bursts of laser energy at an extremely fast rate. These lasers have a pulse duration of one quadrillionth of a second. Femtosecond lasers were originally introduced for use in LASIK eye surgery, in which the laser is focused exclusively on the cornea tissue.  More recently, the femtosecond technology has been approved for use in cataract surgery, in which the primary focus of the laser is to treat the cataract inside the eye.

The History of the Femtosecond Laser

The femtosecond laser was first introduced in the early 1990s. It was developed by Dr. Ron Kurtz at the University of Michigan and approved in 2001 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, or LASIK eye surgery. Since then, the technology has only gotten better. The newest femtosecond lasers have an increased pulse frequency. Less energy is released so that less tissue surrounding the target area is affected. These models are more energy efficient, and procedures can be completed more quickly. Today, the femtosecond laser is used in a variety of ophthalmic surgeries.

How Does a Femtosecond Laser Work?

In femtosecond laser-assisted surgery, tissue is broken apart at the molecular level. The laser disrupts tissue through a process known as photoionization. Targeted tissue is vaporized, which creates a split where an incision would normally be made with a blade, while also softening the cataract.

What are the Benefits of Using a Femtosecond Laser?

Studies have proven femtosecond lasers to offer more precise incisions with less damage to the surrounding tissue compared to blades. Some studies show that femtosecond lasers cause fewer complications and that patients heal faster post-surgery. Femtosecond lasers also have the benefit of greater consistency and more versatility compared to manual surgery.

Compared to an Yttrium-Aluminum Garnet (YAG) laser, another laser commonly used in eye surgeries, a femtosecond laser causes less collateral damage — 106 times less damage, in fact.

The four most commonly used femtosecond lasers used in ophthalmology are:

  • Catalys
  • LenSx
  • LensAR
  • Victus

The Marietta Eye Clinic uses Catalys lasers.

Which Procedures are Commonly Performed with Lasers?

Femtosecond lasers are currently some of the most advanced technology being used in ophthalmology. After its initial development for use in refractive surgery, the femtosecond laser was approved for cataract surgery by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2015. They have been shown to aid eye surgeons in cataract surgeries as well as many other ocular procedures. Femtosecond laser technology can also be used for other procedures, including small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE), penetrating keratoplasty (PKP) and deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (DALK) incision, to name a few.

Talk with your eye surgeon about whether your procedure may benefit from laser technology.

More About Cataract Specialist Puneet Panda, M.D.

Dr. Panda is an ophthalmologist at the Marietta Eye Clinic who specializes in dry eye, cataracts, LASIK, and cornea, in addition to offering comprehensive ophthalmic care. Dr. Panda graduated from Cornell University with an undergraduate degree in biological and environmental engineering. He received his medical degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and completed his residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He completed his fellowship in Cornea and Refractive Surgery from the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University. He is a member of both the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons. Read more about Dr. Panda 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.

FDA approves laser for refractive and cataract surgery

https://www.aao.org/headline/fda-approves-laser-refractive-cataract-surgery-2

Femtosecond lasers and laser assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK)

https://eyewiki.aao.org/Femtosecond_lasers_and_laser_assisted_in_situ_keratomileusis_(LASIK)

Femtosecond Cataract Surgery

https://eyewiki.org/Femtosecond_Cataract_Surgery

Femtosecond lasers and laser assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK)

https://eyewiki.aao.org/Femtosecond_lasers_and_laser_assisted_in_situ_keratomileusis_(LASIK)

The evolution of corneal and refractive surgery with the femtosecond laser

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4655461/

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