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Ophthalmologists at South Nassau Introduce New Cataract Surgery Technology

Ophthalmologists at South Nassau Communities Hospital are using a new micro-incision ophthalmologic surgical system that allows ophthalmologists to perform cataract surgery through a single incision that is 2.2mm or smaller. Traditional, no-stitch cataract surgery requires an incision that is 33 percent larger.

In addition to this latest innovation in micro-incision eye surgery, South Nassau ophthalmologists are among the first in the region to use a cataract surgery system that has three different surgical options. This allows them to develop surgical approaches that are tailored to the needs of each patient.

“We are committed to using advanced surgical technology that improves patient outcomes, safety, and recovery time following surgery,” said Richard Nauheim, MD, Director of Ophthalmology. “The new technologies give us greater surgical control, which results in better patient outcomes and increased safety as compared to traditional cataract removal technologies.”

In addition to reducing post-operative pain and recovery time, the new system improves the effectiveness of cataract surgery and further minimizes post-operative risk for astigmatism (a condition that causes blurred vision due to the curvature of the cornea).

Studies and papers published in peer-reviewed journals herald the benefits of micro-incision cataract surgery. A study on the outcome of 84 micro-incision surgical cases conducted by Viraj Vasavada, DO, MS; Vaishali Vasavada, DO, MS; Shetal M. Raj, DO, MS; and Abhay R. Vasavada, MS, FRCS, and published in the June 2007 issue of the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery found that the approach achieved consistent and satisfactory postoperative outcomes. A paper published in the February 2007 issue of Current Opinion in Ophthalmology stated that “surgeons need to learn the new techniques and instrumentation as cataract surgery moves towards less invasive surgery, with smaller incisions, more precise refractive outcomes, and fewer complications.”

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens, which is located behind the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the pupil (the round opening in the center of the iris). The lens is mostly made of water and protein, which combine to keep the lens clear, allowing light to pass through it. With aging, some of the protein may clump together, forming a cataract, clouding an area of the lens.

Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss in adults age 55 and older. By age 65, about half of the human population has a cataract, and by age 75, almost everyone has a cataract. The National Eye Institute (NEI) reports that more than half of all United States residents 65 and older have a cataract. According to the NEI, cataracts are more common in women than in men, and Caucasians have cataracts more frequently than other races.

In the early stages of a cataract, people may notice only a slight cloudiness. As the cataract grows, it blocks more light and vision becomes cloudier. As vision worsens, cataract surgery is recommended. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States, with more than 1.5 million surgeries performed each year.

Cataract surgery takes approximately 20 minutes and requires a tiny incision in the cornea that serves as a portal to insert an ultrasonic tip. Vibrating at thousands of times a second, the ultrasonic tip breaks up the cataract-clouded lens. The fragments of the lens are removed by suction through a small hole in the tip of the probe. After the lens is removed, an intraocular lens (also referred to as an IOL, which is an artificial lens made of plastic or acrylic and replaces the eye's natural lens) is placed into the eye through the same incision and set into the same position as the natural lens, restoring the eye’s ability to focus.

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