Cataract surgery is a procedure in which the cloudy natural lens in the eye is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens (called an intraocular lens, or IOL). In order to remove the cataract, a small incision is made in the cornea, the capsule surrounding the cataract is opened to gain access to the cataract, and the cataract is broken into small pieces to be able to remove them through the small corneal incision. With traditional cataract surgery, these steps are done with surgical blades and sharp instruments. The laser performs these steps with focused light, resulting in more reproducible, more precise and consistent cuts, and less energy required to break up the cataract. The precision and accuracy of the cataract opening results in better centration and positioning of the IOL, which is especially important when advanced technology IOLs such as the toric IOL or multifocal IOL are implanted. The laser can also be used to correct small amounts of astigmatism at the time of cataract surgery.
Once the cataract is broken up, the rest of the surgical procedure is identical between traditional and laser assisted cataract surgery. The cataract is liquefied using sound wave energy (phacoemulsification) and gently vacuumed from the eye. A foldable intraocular
lens is inserted. Generally sutures are not required to close the incision.
The vision may clear up faster after laser assisted cataract surgery because less energy is required to break up the cataract, resulting in less corneal swelling postoperatively.