Revolutionary breakthrough in cataract surgery

June 13, 2013 11:13:37 AM PDT
The leading cause of blindness in this country is cataracts, affecting 22 million people. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved laser technology for cataract surgery -- giving patients not only more precise removals of the cataract, but custom correction of problems like astigmatism or myopia at the same time.

"Things were getting a little blurry and I was not beginning to see people's faces as they approached me," says Angela Burgess.

But she didn't realize she had cataracts until she took a friend to the eye doctor and decided to get tested herself.

That diagnosis led her to San Leandro eye surgeon Dr. Nicholas Batra, who specializes in laser cataract removal. She had surgery on her left eye in January with immediate results.

"Oh, I could see all these bright colors and saw Dr. Batra's face. It was like I was in heaven. You know, it was an explosion of colors," said Burgess.

Now she's returned for surgery on her right eye. Batra Vision Medical Group is one of just two surgery centers in Northern California with the "LenSx" technology.

"It creates the opening for the cataract incisions. Corrects the astigmatism, creates the capsulotomy, which the opening to enter the cataract, and the fragmentation, which is the laser breakup of the cataract," says Batra. "All of these things are customized for each individual patient."

In Burgess's case, that includes an astigmatism correction.

With all her parameters set, the laser gets to work. The system produces gas bubbles that help soften the cataract, making it easier to remove during surgery.

"Now it's making astigmatism correction cuts so we can see that on the top and the bottom to correct her astigmatism, and now it's making the opening where I access the entry to the cataract," explains Batra.

In less than a minute, that part of the procedure is complete with unparalleled precision.

"Those complex cataracts have a much higher rate of complications when you do manual surgery, because you can't visualize. But with a machine we have that beautiful imagery," says Batra.

In the operating room, Burgess's cataract is quickly removed and new technology known as Ora allows Batra to verify Burgess's intraocular lens prescription during surgery.

He stocks nearly 2,000 lenses - -including bifocal and multifocal -- from three different companies to ensure he has the ideal lens for each patient. He says Burgess will never need glasses again.

"That's the beauty of this; is that, she will have great vision for the rest of her life. The lens that we put in will outlive all three of us combined and keep her prescription nice and stable," says Batra.

And within just minutes of the operation, Burgess sees the difference.

"It's so beautiful. Wow," she says.

Out of pocket costs for patients who get the laser eye correction typically runs about $1,200-$1,800. As for Burgess, her vision is now 20/20 and she's says she's ditched her glasses for good.


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