Flaum Eye Institute Leads Region in New Laser Technique for Cataract Surgery

April 03, 2014

UR Medicine has introduced new laser technology to offer customized cataract surgery with greater precision than the traditional manual technique, restoring vision for people like amateur photographer Robert Luce, who face failing eyesight and difficulty driving.

Flaum Eye Institute is the first center in the Finger Lakes region to acquire the CatalysÒ precision laser system to treat cataracts, the leading cause of reversible blindness in the United States.

The new system combines state-of-the-art femtosecond laser, advanced 3D imaging and sophisticated software allowing surgeons to improve treatment planning and removal of the cataract.  “This is a tremendous advance because it almost eliminates incisions made with the knife and limits the amount of energy needed during surgery, which protects the cornea,” said Steven Feldon, M.D., M.B.A., director of the Flaum Eye Institute and chair of Ophthalmology.  “It’s safer, easier to perform and causes less inflammation for patients.  It’s truly amazing to watch it because the surgery appears to come out of thin air.” 

A cataract is a clouding of the protein-based lens in the eye that affects vision.  Cataracts are common -- by the age of 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had surgery to remove one. Symptoms include blurry vision, poor night vision and difficulty driving at night, sensitivity to lights and glare and frequent changes in corrective lenses or contacts.  Surgery is the only treatment for cataracts and is one of the most widely performed procedures worldwide.

“Femtosecond laser surgery is designed to give us more reproducible results and less inflammation for our patients. The level of precision afforded by the laser is far better than manual surgery,” said Yousuf Khalifa, M.D., a cornea specialist and associate professor of Ophthalmology.  Khalifa is one of a team of surgeons who perform cataract surgeries at Flaum Eye Institute:  Shobha A. Boghani, M.B.B.S., Holly Hindman, M.D.Christian Klein, M.D.Scott McRae, M.D.,  Harold Ross, M.D.,Shakeel Shareef, M.D., and Regina Smolyak, M.D.

Khalifa removed cataracts from each of Luce’s eyes using the new laser technology. The retired math teacher praised the simplicity of the procedure, but more importantly, the improvement in his vision.

“I didn’t realize how much the cataracts were really bothering the quality of my vision until they were removed.  Then I noticed how bright everything is and how vibrant colors are again,” said Luce, who lives in Brockport with his wife, Sally.  He described a recent home renovation project that included new paint.  “I thought my wife chose an antique white, but after the surgery, I see that it is bright white.” 

About laser cataract surgery

Every eye has a distinct size and shape and the new laser system has 3D imaging technology that allows surgeons to build a 3D map of each eye and customize the treatment plan.

The surgeon programs the laser to create a circular opening in the capsule that holds the cataract. The goal in this step is to create an opening that is as circular as possible and sized to fit an artificial lens.  This opening allows the surgeon to access and remove the cataract.  Then, the laser softens the cataract and breaks it into tiny pieces and it is gently removed with minimal ultrasound energy.  In the traditional manual procedure, a mechanical instrument and ultrasound energy are used. The new laser system reduces inflammation and offers patients faster recovery.

“The optical system is finely calibrated and it’s unforgiving.  A quarter diopter (a measure of focus) here or there really impacts the patient’s quality of vision.  As a surgeon I want the most predictable and accurate results for my patients,” Khalifa said. 

Restoring vision

There are a variety of artificial lenses available to potentially minimize or eliminate the need for prescription eyeglasses after surgery.  Patients are encouraged to discuss the type of artificial lenses they will receive.   

Traditional lenses can correct near- or far-sightedness, as well as some forms of astigmatisms.  Premium lenses, such as multifocal or toric lenses, can be used to remedy complicated vision problems, though many insurance plans won’t cover them.

The implanted lenses are not necessarily a complete solution to vision restoration and prescription glasses or contact lenses may be needed as time goes on.

The Flaum Eye Institute has Upstate New York’s largest team of clinicians and scientists working together to restore vision and improve therapies for tomorrow.  The institute has a second office in Geneva, serving the Finger Lakes region.

For more information about cataract surgery, go to www.cataract.urmc.edu or call 585-273-3937.  

For Media Inquiries:
Leslie White
(585) 273-1119
Email Leslie White