Phacoemulsification ("phaco") was developed in the search for a way to extract cataracts through a smaller incision. It has become the preferred technique for cataract extraction. An ultrasound probe is used to break the lens apart without harming the capsule. These fragments are then aspirated out of the eye. A foldable intraocular lens (IOL) is then introduced through the 2.8mm incision. Once inside the eye, the lens unfolds to take position inside the capsule. No sutures are needed, as the incision is self-sealing.
When is the right time for phacoemulsification?
Best results are obtained in persons with early cataracts. It is preferable not to wait until the cataract is ripe and vision is excessively low since the cataract will be to hard for the phacoemulsifier, particularly when the cataracts are brown [pigmented] as is often the case in Indian eyes. Surgery is indicated as soon as vision is not adequate for daily activities.
What are the advantages of phacoemulsification?
What are the risks of phacoemulsification?
Just as any other surgical procedure, phacoemulsification has risks. One out of a hundred persons operated on with this technique has some sort of complication. In almost every case there is a solution to the problem. Severe complications are extremely rare.
How should I prepare for phacoemulsification?
No special preparation is needed for phacoemulsification. Your ophthalmologist should make sure there are no associated pathologies, which can interfere with the prognosis, by making an extensive examination of your eyes including pupil dilation. A measurement of your eye's length [A scan] and corneal curvature is crucial for calculating the power of the intraocular lens to be implanted.
What should I do during surgery?
During surgery you will be lying on the operating bed. The operating microscope will be in front of you. Your face will be covered with sterile drapes. You should never touch these drapes. A small device will hold your lids open. During the procedure you should keep your head as still as possible. You will feel the hands of the surgeon on your forehead and the sound of the phacoemulsifier, similar to that of a hair trimmer. You will occasionally feel cold water over your eye that may even go down your cheek. This is the solution needed to keep your eye properly hydrated.
Is phacoemulsification painful? How long does it take?
Phacoemulsification is performed under local anesthesia and anesthetic eyedrops. No general anesthesia is required. The patient is awake during the procedure feeling no pain at all. Phacoemulsification takes about 10 minutes per eye. Once finished, you will go home without need for hospitalization. If so desired the second eye can undergo surgery the next day.
What should I do after surgery?
Normally there will be some foreign body sensation, similar to having an eyelash in your eye. No prolonged bandages are required and the patient walks out of the operating room by his own means [even though vision will be blurry for 2 or 3 days]. Eyedrops will be prescribed for 3 weeks. One week after surgery you will be able to perform any activity without risk.
What results can I expect?