The femtosecond laser (FS laser) is a medical tool the eye surgeon may use to perform some of the steps of cataract surgery. The eye surgeon uses the laser instead of a surgical blade and other tools. The laser makes a cut in the cornea (the front window of the eye). It is also used to make a circular opening in the outer layer of the cataract. It can help break up the cataract.
The FS laser can also treat astigmatism during the cataract surgery. Astigmatism causes blurry vision. Normally, eyes are round (like a baseball). With astigmatism, the eye is long (like a football). Glasses can treat this. Or eye surgeons can treat astigmatism during cataract surgery by making a cut in the cornea to change its shape. This cut is called a relaxing incision.
You have to pay extra for a relaxing incision. Medicare and private insurance do not pay for this.
There may be more risk if the FS laser is used after refractive surgery. Refractive surgery is a procedure that makes you see better (improves your refraction) by changing the shape of the cornea, the clear front of the eye. The FS laser uses suction. If you have had a type of refractive surgery called LASIK, the suction could open up or move the flap. If you have had other refractive surgeries called AK or RK, the suction could open up the old wound. If the flap or the wound is opened up or moved, this could cause leaking, astigmatism, or scarring.
The use of the FS laser on patients who have had refractive surgery is considered “off-label.” This means that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the laser for cataract surgery on the eyes of patients who have not already had refractive surgery. When eye surgeons use the laser during cataract surgery on patients who have had refractive eye surgery, its use is considered “off-label”. Your visual outcome after surgery may not be as good if these problems happen.
Risks. As with all surgery and medical procedures, problems can happen. In addition to all the risks for cataract surgery, here are some common or serious risks for the FS laser.
The cornea could be scratched. You could have an infection, bleeding, damage to your eye, fluid leakage from the eye, or increased eye pressure.
More time may be needed to perform the surgery. You may need to be taken to two different locations or two different rooms to perform the surgery.
The cuts into the cornea and the cataract might be off-center, incomplete, or broken up. If this happens, the FS laser can be used again or the eye surgeon could use a blade to cut the cornea.
The sack containing the cataract might tear, allowing pieces of the cataract to move into the back of the eye. If this happens, you may need another surgery called a vitrectomy to remove the cataract pieces.
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You read this informed consent form or someone read it to you.
You understand the information in this consent form.
The eye surgeon or staff offered you a copy of this form.
The eye surgeon or staff answered your questions about the FS laser.