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The New Femtosecond Laser

Jan 11, 2017, 11:25 AM by Nicole Young
Drs. Fante and Meyers

A new femto laser, in place since early 2015 at the Foothill Surgery Center at Sansum Clinic, is giving eye doctors there an unparalleled level of safety and precision in cataract surgery. (Femto is short for femtosecond. A femtosecond laser has an ultra-short pulse, one-quadrillionth of a second to be exact.) Unlike the traditional procedure where surgeons use a blade to access the cataract, the femto laser creates perfectly-sized incisions, cutting the cataract into small pieces so the cloudy lens can be removed more easily, and with less damage to the eye. 

Dr. Ryan Fante and Dr. Toni Meyers are Sansum Clinic ophthalmologists who use the femto laser on a regular basis. They describe its precision as unparalleled. “When incisions are made by a laser, they don’t vary,” says Dr. Meyers. “The thickness and sizes are programmed in and set to the surgeon’s specifications.”

All cataract surgery generally has a 99% success rate. But when a femto laser handles the capsulorhexis or removal of the lens, the risks of a more challenging part of the procedure are virtually eliminated.

When eyes are young, the natural lens is clear and flexible, so seeing near and far is easy. With age, that flexibility goes away, and the lens gets cloudy. “It’s like looking through a dirty window,” describes Dr. Fante. This is why most cataract patients
are senior citizens. Regular cataract patients are candidates for the femto laser, unless they have irregularly small eyes, corneal scars or pupil dilation issues.

Dr. Fante and Dr. Meyers have collectively performed hundreds of surgeries with the femto laser so far. About 50% of their patients at Sansum Clinic are opting to remove cataracts this way. “Even the best surgeons are using it, because it makes everything so precise, so reliable, and so reproducible. No human can do that,” says Dr. Meyers.

Dr. Meyers with Patient Patients are awake in the operating room, and need to be still and focused for the five-minute or less laser portion. Most are finished in less than 15 minutes. “We know that putting the least amount of energy into the eye is better. The femto laser does this, and patients recover faster, and their corneas look better,” reports Dr. Fante. Additionally, more patients are opting for specialty lenses as part of the procedure.

To work properly, these lenses need to be perfectly centered, and adjustment with the femto laser is extremely accurate. “It’s a very big investment they are putting in their eye, so it makes sense for that piece of hardware to be in an exact position,” says Dr. Fante.

After learning he was a candidate for cataract surgery, patient Richard Rogers chose The Crystalens©, a specialty lens which simulates a normal, younger eye. He hoped it would eliminate the need for glasses when watching television and driving at night.

“My cataracts looked something like a photograph of a distant galaxy taken by the Hubble Telescope,” he says jokingly. “Big clouds in each eye, kind of a yellowy color.”

The former California Fish & Game Commissioner thought the surgery might also help his fly fishing, a sport where acute vision is extremely important.

Rogers says within 48 hours after Dr. Meyers worked on his eyes, the effects were startling. “Literally, by the time I got home, I could notice the change. The difference in color was profound,” he said.

So far, Rogers hasn’t missed hunting around for his glasses, or pumping up the font size on his iPad prior to reading. He says his vision is perfect, and the effects have been life-changing. While Rogers had to pay out of pocket for his surgery since insurance often doesn’t cover the femto laser, he has no regrets. He only wishes he’d received the cataract diagnosis earlier, so he could have achieved better vision sooner, and avoided the expense and hassle of eyeglasses over the years.

Both doctors expect more requests for this technology. Dr. Fante tells his patients that if he or anyone in his family needed cataract surgery, he would opt for the femto laser. Dr. Meyers agrees, “The eye is a small organ. Any errors can really lead to a big visual change. This is a great advancement. The femtosecond laser provides extra peace of mind for patients.”

Learn more about Foothill Surgery Center at Sansum Clinic >