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Health Column: A more precise way to remove cataracts


Cataract removal surgery recently became more cutting-edge at Eastern Long Island Hospital, where ophthalmologist Dr. Lawrence Buono has been performing what hospital officials are calling a “breakthrough” technique since February.

Femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery, or FLACS, uses a computer-guided laser to capture real-time images of a patient’s eye just before surgery is conducted. ELIH is currently the only East End hospital making use of the technology, which Dr. Buono said improves surgical precision.

“It’s the same laser that we use for LASIK,” said Dr. Buono, chief of ophthalmology at ELIH and an attending physician and partner with North Shore Eye Care, which has nine locations on Long Island. “It’s been adopted on a whole new platform for cataract surgery.”

According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of Americans will be diagnosed with a cataract — a clouding of the eye’s lens that affects vision — or will have surgery to correct the problem by the time they turn 80.

“Pretty much everybody gets cataracts,” Dr. Buono said. “Some people get a significant cataract as early as their 60s and some people don’t until they’re in their 80s or 90s.”

According to the NEI, cataracts occur when protein in the eye’s lens clumps together. Dr. Buono said symptoms of the condition, which can worsen over time, include decreased vision and contrast, difficulty driving and experiencing a glare, or halo effect.

“These are usually the first kind of symptoms people describe,” he said.

Read on to learn more about FLACS from Dr. Buono. You can also contact North Shore Eye Care’s call center at 631-265-8780 or visit NSEYE.com.

Q: Why was it important to you to bring laser-assisted cataract removal surgery to ELIH?
A: We certainly have an older population here who needs cataract surgery. I’ve been serving this population now for about 10 years and it’s just always been important to me to keep up with the latest thing. So when this technology became available and I got some experience with it, I wanted to offer it to this group.

Q: Since February, how many times have you performed the procedure?
A: About 50. Yesterday I did seven [surgeries]. It’s certainly kind of getting more and more popular each time I do it.

Q: Are there any risks associated with it?
A: Well, not every single person is a candidate [for laser eye surgery]. If someone had significant corneal scarring, or some type of pathology that would make it inadvisable to use the laser, or small pupils — there’s a whole list of things I look for.

Q: Is the procedure faster than traditional cataract surgery?
A: No, it’s actually not. It adds a couple minutes because we have to do the imaging. When I was first doing it, it was adding 10 to 15 minutes. Now we’ve all gotten so skilled at it, including my staff, that it probably adds three minutes.

Q: What is the recovery period like?
A: It’s no different than regular cataract surgery. Cataract surgery today really enjoys minimal recovery. Most of my patients, because of the anesthetic technique I use, do not get a needle injection. That means they don’t need to wear a patch after surgery and can see immediately afterward. They can go back to their normal activities the following day, including driving.

Have a health column idea for Rachel Young? Email her at [email protected].