Laser May Improve Focusing Power of Intraocular Lenses

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What if you’ve had cataract surgery and still need glasses or contact lenses? A laser treatment may someday make it possible for ophthalmologists to refocus intraocular lenses (IOL) that were implanted years before.

The treatment uses a low-intensity femtosecond laser, which can reshape an implanted acrylic IOL without cutting or damaging it. Using the laser, ophthalmologists can correct the focusing power of the lens and even reshape it to accommodate changes in the eye that have occurred since the IOL was originally implanted. They can even add “premium” functions to a basic monofocal IOL-turning it into a toric or multifocal lens, for example. The procedure can be done quickly in the office, under a topical anesthetic.

In a recent experimental study of the procedure, researchers adjusted the focusing power of 10 conventional IOLs in the laboratory. They then studied how the adjustments affected the light-transmitting features of the lenses. The results indicated that femtosecond laser adjustment can change the refractive power of an IOL by up to 2 diopters. To put that number in perspective, typical over-the-counter reading glasses have a refractive power of 1 to 3 diopters.

The technique is being tested and may not be available for many years. Still, it offers the possibility that ophthalmologists will be able to improve the focusing power of intraocular lenses long after implantation. The findings were reported last year in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.