FLACS vs Traditional Cataract Surgery

In the year 2020, lasers are used for a variety of things. From making sure your shelves are level, to measuring the gravitational waves of black holes, laser technology is spreading. Lasers are used in business and commerce, archeology, military, manufacturing, and communication. The medical field is no exception. In the world of ophthalmology, the popularity of Femtosecond Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery (FLACS) has been growing over the past few years. Whenever something new comes into the marketplace, our ophthalmologists at Riverside EyeCare Professionals—Michael Sumsion, MD and Sean Sumsion, MD—examine whether the new procedure, equipment, or product would benefit those who pass through the doors at Riverside.

FLACS uses a laser to create an incision in the cornea, open the cataract membrane or capsules, and then to soften the cataract prior to removal. Traditional cataract surgery uses a blade to create an incision in the cornea and a process of using ultrasonic energy (sound waves) to soften and remove the cataract. Outside of the way the incision is made and the cataract softened, both avenues require mechanical removal of the lens. The question arises – does FLACS offer any additional benefits to patients over traditional cataract surgery?

Before discussing what the research has shown, let’s talk about that word – benefits. In the medical field, and in much of the research regarding FLACS, the benefits fall into three general categories: safety, visual results, and time.

  • Safety – potential unintended complications that may happen. There is a certain level of risk in every surgery, but cataract surgery has long been one of the most successful and common surgeries performed in the United States. As far as surgeries go, cataract surgery is low on the risk spectrum.
  • Visual results – the ability for patients to reach a target level of vision. With advancing technologies of lens options, patient satisfaction is at an all-time high.
  • Time – Researchers look into whether new technologies save time for the surgeon during surgery or reduce the recovery time for patients following surgery.

What does the research say? The answer may surprise you.

Over these three areas – safety, visual results, and time – none of the studies performed have shown statistically significant benefits from laser-assisted vs traditional cataract surgery. As the American Academy of Ophthalmology reinforces, in the midst of the FLACS vs traditional debate, “Your outcome depends in large part on the skill and experience of your surgeon.”

New technology should have a purpose – a better outcome, a safer procedure, less time in surgery or recovering afterward. With the understanding that Drs. Michael and Sean Sumsion offer laser-assisted cataract surgery, the technology, while cool and interesting, is rather unnecessary, mostly serving as a way to increase patient’s cost. While surgeons cannot charge you simply for using this technology, many attempt to cover their costs by bundling other premium services. Often buzz words are used to market FLACS as ‘more accurate’, ‘less complex’, or with the promise of ‘improved outcomes’. While it may look catchy in advertisements, the medical science simply does not back those claims.
When looking for a surgeon for your cataract surgery, there is something more important than the tools used – the hands that hold them.

For more information about cataract surgery performed by our experienced board-certified ophthalmologists, contact Riverside EyeCare Professionals today!

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Redding, CA 96001
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