Looking back at the last thirty years of cataract surgery advancements really shows the incredible progress that has been achieved. As a cataract surgeon, I’m living proof of the milestones, since I was the personal beneficiary of these transformations in July of 2014 when I had advanced laser cataract surgery and ReStor lenses. My vision is incredible and for the first time in 50 years (since I was six) I do not need any corrective lenses.
What precipitated my decision to get cataract surgery? In 2014, I started to notice that I wasn’t as confident with my night driving as I was during the day and oncoming headlights were bothering me. Reading small print had also become a challenge. Obviously, as a surgeon, I need my vision to be excellent and I started to explore having advanced laser cataract surgery.
As one who both performs such surgeries and has undergone it himself, it’s amazing for me to think of how far cataract surgery has come. When I began practicing in Hollywood, Florida in July of 1987, I was part of a wave of ophthalmologists who brought new out-patient cataract surgery to Fort Lauderdale. Rather than keeping patients in the hospital for a night before and a night after surgery, we implemented out-patient cataract surgery. For the next decade, I was doing cataract surgery with a procedure called Extracapsular Cataract Extraction which required 5-7 sutures to close and secure the surgical incision. Patients who had this procedure needed to rest for three weeks and they received a new eyeglass prescription at the sixth post-operative week visit. They still needed glasses for seeing near and intermediate distances.
Then, in the mid-1990s, cataract surgery transformed even more with the technology called Phacoemulcification (phaco). This allowed for a way to remove the cataract without the need for stitches and with only tiny incisions in the eye. Phaco enabled us to tell patients on the first day post-operative that they could resume their regular lives and it drastically cut down on edema, infections and inflammations.
Ten years ago, another incredible advancement occurred with the arrival of the multifocal ReStor IOL. With this technology, we can typically correct most cataracts and allow patients to see without the aid of glasses or contact lenses. This was a huge milestone and one that really freed up patients and changed their lives.
After thirty years as a cataract surgeon, I have found the technological advances to be life-transforming for patients (and for myself as a patient). The most incredible advancement, to date, which has only occurred in the last five years is the laser-assisted cataract surgery. The Femtosecond laser cataract surgery is far safer and far more accurate than older techniques that required the use of a scalpel. The laser means that the surgeon has outstanding precision and is able to offer the patient the best visual outcomes possible. Interestingly, patients who have low or moderate levels of astigmatism can have this eliminated or greatly reduced simultaneously with the cataract procedure. If you can imagine, today’s cataract surgery is customized to the patient’s individual needs with high-tech 3D imaging. It is able to tailor ultra-precise treatment to each patient for the unique size and shape of his eye.
These advancements are certainly exciting and are leading the way for the future of cataract surgery care.