Laser Cataract Surgery FAQs

What is a cataract and what is cataract surgery?

A cataract is a common condition in which the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. Cataracts usually develop slowly over time and are a normal part of aging. Your vision with a cataract may look fuzzy, and colors might be muted. You might also notice glare and halos while driving. Patients often ask when they should have cataract surgery, and we advise them that treatment is needed only when the effects of the cataract interfere with daily activities.

In cataract surgery, the cataract is removed and replaced with an intraocular lens implant. It is the most common surgical procedure in the U.S. and is considered to be an extremely successful and safe procedure.

What is laser cataract surgery?

Many of the steps of cataract surgery are traditionally performed using handheld instruments. Now, they can be completed with the precision of a laser. Your surgeon can use the laser to create precise incisions, as well as the circular opening for accessing and removing the cataract. The opening is exceptionally accurate and results in a near perfect circle.

Once the opening is created, the laser then softens and breaks up the hard cataract into tiny pieces, allowing for gentler, easier cataract removal with significantly less ultrasound energy than is used in traditional cataract surgery.

What is the purpose of 3D imaging?

Every eye has a unique size and shape. Prior to treatment, the laser system scans your eye, making a precise 3D map of relevant structures. This process provides your surgeon with great detail about your eye and allows the laser to be focused in a way that results in precise incisions exactly where intended and in a matter of seconds.

How is laser cataract surgery different from traditional cataract surgery?

In traditional cataract surgery, incisions in the cornea to access the cataract are made using a handheld, single-use, diamond blade. Your surgeon will then use a specialized microsurgical instrument to create an opening in the lens capsule of the eye that holds the cataract. The goal in these steps is to make the corneal incisions precise and the opening in the lens capsule as circular as possible, in the right location, and sized to fit the replacement lens. To remove the cataract, a small probe is inserted into the eye, emitting ultrasound waves to break up the cataract into pieces. The probe is also used to suction out the fragments of the cataract.

With laser cataract surgery, the incisions may be made with the laser, which is also used to create a more precise opening into the lens capsule. In addition, the laser energy is used to soften the cataract before removal. Following the laser steps, the fragments of the cataract are still removed using the same probe used in traditional surgery and, in both procedures, an intraocular lens is inserted.

What are the benefits of laser cataract surgery?

  • A highly customized treatment using advanced 3D imaging
  • A more precise treatment
  • A gentler and easier cataract removal with less ultrasound energy
  • More options for astigmatism correction

Am I a candidate for laser cataract surgery 

Most cataract patients are candidates for laser cataract surgery. Your doctor will need to examine your eyes and discuss your options in more detail during your cataract evaluation exam.

Will I need to wear glasses after surgery?

In cataract surgery, you can choose from several types of replacement lenses. There are options for reducing or eliminating your dependence on spectacles, such as monovision or multifocal intraocular lenses. Your surgeon will discuss these options with you at your eye examination.

How long has the procedure been performed?

Thousands of procedures have been successfully performed using laser cataracts. The system Kellogg has chosen to use is the Catalys Precision Laser System, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011.

What should I expect on the day of surgery?

Before the day of surgery you will receive a packet of instructions and the date and time you should arrive at the Kellogg Eye Center. You will come to the 4th floor and will be greeted by a nurse who will take you to the pre-op area. Your eye will be dilated (typically patients have one eye operated on at a time), and you’ll have an IV to supply medicine to help you relax. You’ll see your surgeon before the procedure.

You will be awake during the surgery, but will have received medicine to numb your eye. The surgery takes from 15 to 20 minutes, and you should expect little or no discomfort. During the laser portion, patients describe seeing a kaleidoscope of lights and feel only slight pressure.

After surgery, a protective shield with holes will be placed over your eye, and you will go the recovery room where a nurse will check your vital signs. Most patients go home about 30 minutes after the surgery.

How long does the procedure take?

You can expect to be at our center for two to three hours. Most patients are in the procedure room for 30 minutes or less. The 3D imaging and laser portion of the treatment only takes a few minutes.

What should I expect for recovery?

Some people will have improved vision immediately after surgery, but we tell patients that it is normal to have blurred vision for a day or two. You will not have many restrictions during recovery, but it is important not to lift heavy objects or engage in strenuous exercise for one week. 

To Learn More

Kellogg surgeons and staff are available to speak with patients to determine if this new surgical option is right for them and to review the overall risks of cataract surgery. Call 734-764-4190 or email lasercataract@umich.edu. To learn more about laser cataract surgery download the Laser Cataract Surgery brochure.