Innovative cataract surgery reduces patient risk
Calgary just received the first Catalys femtosecond laser in Western Canada – which doctors say makes cataract surgery safer and more comfortable for patients at the Southern Alberta Eye Center.
Patricia Arkley, 76, had cataract surgery performed by Dr. Rob Mitchell using this innovative treatment. The femtosecond laser softens the cataract more than the traditional method, which involves inserting a probe into the eye to break up the cataract.
The laser treatment does come with an extra cost of about $650 per eye, where as the traditional surgery is fully covered by Medicare.
Photographed by Colin McHattie
Published on Oct. 3
Before the operation on her right eye, Patricia Arkley's cataracts — the clouding of the lens inside the eye — were evident. The traditional way of performing cataract surgery is through phacoemulsification, a small ultrasonic probe inserted into the eye used to break up the cataract. The laser is different because it softens up the cataract even more and decreases the chances of complications.
The laser interface is set up with the cuts about to be made. Dr. Rob Mitchell finalizes where he wants the cuts before Arkley is brought into the operating room. The laser utilizes a touch screen that makes adjustments as easy as dragging them across the screen.
Once the cuts have been finalized, Arkley is brought into the operating room. Nurses help her down into the bed with the attached laser and make sure she is comfortable. Her head is then strapped down and secured in place with foam blocks on either side to keep her movements minimal.
At this point, the laser has fully mapped out Arkley's eye and Dr. Mitchell is once again making sure all the cuts are to his liking before he begins the laser treatment.
A single button is held down and the laser gets to work. The image of Arkley's eye shows the laser's progress in real-time. Here, it is clear to see how the laser is sectioning the cataract, which will make it much easier for Dr. Mitchell to remove.
Dr. Mitchell brings up the original imputed laser alignments and compares them to the cuts the laser actually made.
After the laser is finished, Arkley is brought into another operating room to have the cataract removed by Dr. Mitchell. She is awake the entire time and only has her eye frozen.
The operating room is fitted with screens that closely display Dr. Mitchell's progress. Dr. Mitchell inserts small tools that further break up and suck out the cataract. The tools go into the eye through small wounds that were made by the laser.
After the cataract is removed, Dr. Mitchell inserts a new lens in to the eye to complete the surgery.
After the surgery is completed, Arkley's pupil is extremely clear and Dr. Mitchell says that she should be seeing better the next day.