Local eye doctor offers new treatment for cataracts

One local practice has a new toy. And it’s changing clients’ lives.

Metrolina Eye Associates recently purchased a new machine that makes cataract removal surgery more precise, efficient and comfortable. They’re the only local owners of a LenSx femtosecond laser. The device, on the market for about a year, uses a laser to remove cataracts from the eye, eliminating the need for blades. Metrolina Eye Associates is the only office in south Charlotte and Union County that currently owns one of these machines, the practice said.

“It’s a significant step up from the manual, old-fashioned version of surgery,” said Dr. Ivan Mac, an ophthalmologist who founded Metrolina Eye Associates in 2004.

A cataract occurs when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy and affects vision. During cataract surgery, the cataract must be removed and then replaced with an artificial lens.

In traditional surgery, the surgeon must break up the cataract with a tiny jackhammer and then vacuum it out.

With the new machine, a laser “pretreats” the cataract, dissolving it and making an opening in the cataract. Surgeons still have to vacuum out the leftover debris manually, but “it’s already broken into little pieces. It makes removing it very easy.”

After the cataract is removed, doctors install the new lens – a process Mac said  has improved thanks to the laser.

The opening created by the laser is “so precise that it can’t be matched by hand,” which allows the artificial lens to sit perfectly in the eye without tilting, Mac said.

The surgery is gentle, safe and painless. Metrolina Eye Associates has treated about 60 patients with the laser so far. The procedure takes about eight minutes as opposed to the 15 minutes a traditional surgery takes.

There also are other benefits associated with the surgery. The laser has the ability to treat astigmatisms to improve vision. The artificial lens also allows the patient to see far away and up close without glasses.

A patient experiences less swelling post-surgery because the operation is “no stitch, no needle, no blade, nothing,” Mac said. Vision also returns sooner, so there is little-to-no recovery time.

“You just get up and go,” Mac said.

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