Laser cataract surgery continues to gain attention since it was introduced as an alternative to traditional cataract surgery in 2009. Has it fulfilled its promise of better vision with fewer complications? A December 2016 study examined 7,801 patients in 19 countries to find out.
December 2016 Laser Cataract Study
A December 2016 study published in the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery compared 2,814 laser cataract surgery patients to 4,987 traditional cataract surgery patients. The study, authored by Sonia Manning, MD, FRSCI(Ophth) and others, measured visual acuity (by asking patients to look at a chart), refractive power (by using tools to measure the eyes), and complications during and after surgery.
The results of the study support four conclusions:
1. Complications During Cataract Surgery Are Rare
The rates of complications during both types of cataract surgery were similarly low.
2. Complications After Laser Cataract Surgery Are More Likely
After a 2-month followup, 3.8% of patients undergoing laser cataract surgery showed complications compared to 2.3% of patients undergoing traditional cataract surgery.
3. Visual Acuity Got Worse More After Laser Cataract Surgery
After a 2-month followup, 0.8% of patients undergoing laser cataract surgery had worse visual acuity than before their surgery, compared to 0.4% in the traditional group. Specifically, laser cataract surgery was associated with more corneal swelling, more thickening of the the capsule that holds the eye’s lens, and more inflammation, all of which could degrade visual acuity on eye chart tests.
4. Laser Cataract Surgery Isn’t Better
Despite its promise, laser cataract surgery has yet to show evidence of improvement over traditional cataract surgery.
Does Eye Centers of Florida Recommend Laser Cataract Surgery?
Until laser cataract surgery can offer better results than traditional cataract surgery, we at Eye Centers of Florida believe it’s best for patients to choose traditional cataract surgery. That’s why we currently don’t recommend laser cataract surgery to our own patients, but we continue to evaluate laser cataract surgery and other developing technologies.
Read an earlier article about laser vs. traditional cataract surgery.
David C. Brown M.D., F.A.C.S.
Eye Centers of Florida Founder
- Femtosecond laser–assisted cataract surgery versus standard phacoemulsification cataract surgery: Study from the European Registry of Quality Outcomes for Cataract and Refractive Surgery. Manning, Sonia et al. Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery, Volume 42, Issue 12, 1779-1790.
Laser image courtesy of Flickr user Kevin Doncaster.