Recently, a new laser device has become available to assist in the performance of cataract surgery. A cataract is a clouding or opacification of the lens of the eye. It generally causes progressive loss of vision possibly associated with night vision disturbances such as glares or halos. Its typical onset is middle age and onwards. Everyone will eventually develop significant cataracts although there is considerable variability regarding the age of onset for each individual.
Cataract surgery traditionally has involved making a opening through the wall of the eye, and inserting instruments to remove the cataract. Earlier forms of the surgery such as intracapsular cataract extraction or extracapsular cataract extraction (ICCE or ECCE), required the creation of very large incision through the wall of the eye, and removal of large portions of the cataract in a single piece. The more modern approaches employ a very small incision through the wall of the eye which minimizes the trauma and improves healing time. An ultrasonic device called a phacoemulsifier is inserted through the wall of the eye and into the substance of the cataract. This vibrates at very high frequencies. It softens or emulsifies the hard nucleus of the cataract into a soft material which can easily be removed from the eye using suction. Once the entire contents of the cataract have been removed, an artificial lens implant is inserted into the eye which then takes place of the focusing power that the original lens possessed. This technique of cataract surgery is referred to as phacoemulsification. It has become the mainstay of cataract surgery in the modern ear.