South Nassau Communities Hospital

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South Nassau in the Community

06/05/2008

Cataract Surgery’s Improved by New Technology


Although cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries performed in the United States, ophthalmologists at South Nassau Communities Hospital believe there’s always room for improvement.

The world's first cataract surgery system with three different surgical options is allowing ophthalmologists at South Nassau to use approaches that are tailored to the needs of each patient, noticeably improving patient safety and post-surgical outcomes.

“The system allows us to provide patients with customized cataract surgery,” said Richard Nauheim, MD, Director of Ophthalmology. “Its flexibility gives us greater surgical control, which results in better patient outcomes and increased safety as compared to traditional cataract removal technologies.”

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.

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. Cataracts grow faster in younger people or diabetics, so surgery is recommended more quickly in those cases or if the patient suffers from other eye diseases.

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. The fragments of the cataract are removed by suction through a small hole in the tip of the probe.

“The new cataract surgery system used at South Nassau requires just a microscopic incision,” said Dr. Nauheim. “Its flexibility allows our ophthalmologists to select the incision site and use the optimal approach to remove the cataract.”

In addition to reducing post-operative pain and recovery time, the system reduces the loss of eye fluid during eye surgery (the eye is filled with a clear fluid called intraocular fluid, which flows out through the pupil and is then absorbed into the bloodstream through the eye’s drainage system); and further minimizes post-operative risk for astigmatism (a condition that causes blurred vision due either to the irregular shape of the cornea or sometimes the curvature of the lens inside the eye) and endophthalmitis (an infection inside the eye that occurs most commonly after cataract surgery, typically afflicting approximately one in every 1,000 patients).



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