Half of all Americans who live to be 80 either have a cataract or have had one removed. For centuries, doctors have used a blade to get to the cataract in a patient’s eye. Now, for the first time in this region, the blades are gone at Mercy Eye and Ear Center in Springfield, where patients will benefit from laser precision, at no additional cost.
Beginning March 4, Mercy ophthalmologists in Springfield will begin performing all cataract surgeries using the Catalys Precision Laser System from OptiMedica. The femtosecond laser system maps the eye, makes a precise cut and breaks up the cataract. This allows the doctors to more easily remove the cataract and helps position the patient’s new lens with unsurpassed accuracy. In fact, a study in the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery showed the laser was approximately 10 times more accurate than the manual technique. It means patients can expect fewer complications, a quicker recovery time and better vision after the surgery.
“Simply put, laser cataract surgery helps us provide the most exact results with the highest safety margin available anywhere,” explained Mercy ophthalmologist Dr. Wendell Scott. “We are excited to be the first to bring this advanced technology to the region.”
45-year-old Bryan Perry actually postponed his cataract removal when he learned a laser option was on its way. “After my doctor told me about it, I did research online. It’s so accurate, and the thought of a blade going into my eye wasn’t very appealing. I was definitely willing to wait.”
The good news for patients like Bryan is that Mercy is offering laser cataract removal at the same price as traditional surgery. While most patients who have cataracts removed are over age 65 and can expect Medicare to cover the cost, that isn’t true for patients who want the laser option. Medicare will not pay more for laser surgery, which at other locations can cost patients at least $1,000.
“Every other ophthalmologist in the country that’s using this system for cataract surgery is charging patients more if they want the laser to make the cut instead of the surgeon’s hand,” said Dr. Shachar Tauber, Mercy ophthalmology section chair. “That just didn’t feel right to us. If this is the best way to perform cataract surgery – and it is – then all of our patients deserve to have their cataracts removed with the laser.”
As is the case now, patients will have the option to upgrade their new lens implants and potentially free themselves from glasses. While options like that have always and will continue to cost more, patients who simply want their cataracts removed will get the laser surgery at no extra cost. Those who do upgrade their lenses can look forward to an even better result than in traditional surgery, as the eye map allows doctors to predict with much greater accuracy just how the new lens will sit in the eye.
These surgeries will be offered in a new, convenient location as well. Mercy Eye and Ear Center is located at 3045 S. National St. in Springfield (the corner of National and Montclair). The building will also house ear, nose and throat surgery. For now, patients will continue to have their regular check-ups at the clinic offices inside the Mercy Surgery Center at 1229 E. Seminole.