Cataract surgery is the removal of the natural lens of the eye (also called "crystalline lens") that has developed an opacification, which is referred to as a cataract. Metabolic changes of the crystalline lens fibers over time lead to the development of the cataract and loss of transparency, causing impairment or loss of vision. Many patients' first symptoms are strong glare from lights and small light sources at night, along with reduced acuity at low light levels. During cataract surgery, a patient's cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a synthetic lens to restore the lens's transparency.
Following surgical removal of the natural lens, an artificial intraocular lens implant is inserted (eye surgeons say that the lens is "implanted"). Cataract surgery is generally performed by an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) in an ambulatory (rather than inpatient) setting, in a surgical center or hospital, using local anesthesia (either topical, peribulbar, or retrobulbar), usually causing little or no discomfort to the patient. Well over 90% of operations are successful in restoring useful vision, with a low complication rate. Day care, high volume, minimally invasive, small incision phacoemulsification with quick post-op recovery has become the standard of care in cataract surgery all over the world.
Phacoemulsification (Phaco) is the preferred method in most cases. It involves the use of a machine with an ultrasonic handpiece equipped with a titanium or steel tip. The tip vibrates at ultrasonic frequency (40,000 Hz) and the lens material is emulsified. A second fine instrument (sometimes called a "cracker" or "chopper") may be used from a side port to facilitate cracking or chopping of the nucleus into smaller pieces. Fragmentation into smaller pieces makes emulsification easier, as well as the aspiration of cortical material (soft part of the lens around the nucleus). After phacoemulsification of the lens nucleus and cortical material is completed, a dual irrigation-aspiration (I-A) probe or a bimanual I-A system is used to aspirate out the remaining.
Mater intraocular lens implantation: After the removal of the cataract, an intraocular lens (IOL) is usually implanted into the eye, either through a small incision (1.8 mm to 2.8 mm) using a foldable IOL, or through an enlarged incision, using a PMMA (polymethylmethacrylate) lens. The foldable IOL, made of silicone or acrylic material of appropriate power is folded either using a holder/folder, or a proprietary insertion device provided along with the IOL. The lens implanted is inserted through the incision into the capsular bag within the posterior chamber (in-the-bag implantation). Sometimes, a sulcus implantation (in front or on top of the capsular bag but behind the iris) may be required because of posterior capsular tears or because of zonulodialysis. Implantation of posterior chamber IOL (PCIOL) in patients below 1 year of age is controversial due to rapid ocular growth at this age and the excessive amount of inflammation, which may be very difficult to control. Optical correction in these patients without intraocular lens (aphakic) is usually managed with either special contact lenses or glasses. Secondary implantation of IOL (placement of a lens implant as a second operation) may be considered later. New designs of multifocal intraocular lens are now available. These lenses allow focusing of rays from distant as well as near objects, working much like bifocal or trifocal eyeglasses. Preoperative patient selection and good counselling is extremely important to avoid unrealistic expectations and post-operative patient dissatisfaction. Acceptability for these lenses has become better and studies have shown good results in selected patients.