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Study Reports More Precise Way to Remove Cataracts
Date:11/18/2010

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Cataract surgery, already an extremely safe and successful procedure, can be made more precise by combining a laser and three-dimensional imaging, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that a femtosecond laser, used for many years in LASIK surgery, can cut into delicate eye tissue more cleanly and accurately than manual cataract surgery, which is performed more than 1.5 million times each year in the United States.

In the current procedure, which has a 98 percent success rate, surgeons use a micro-blade to cut a circle around the cornea before extracting the cataract with an ultrasound machine. The laser procedure uses optical coherence technology to customize each patient's eye measurements before slicing through the lens capsule and cataract, though ultrasound is still used to remove the cataract itself.

"It takes some skill and energy to break the lens with the ultrasound," explained lead researcher Daniel Palanker, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University. "The laser helps to speed this up and make it safer."

After practicing the laser procedure on pig eyes and donated human eyes, Palanker and his colleagues did further experiments to confirm that the high-powered, rapid-pulse laser would not cause retinal damage.

Actual surgeries later performed on 50 patients between the ages of 55 and 80 showed that the laser cut circles in lens capsules 12 times more precise than those achieved by the traditional method. No adverse effects were reported.

The study, reported in the Nov. 17 issue of Science Translational Medicine, was funded by OpticaMedica Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., in which Palanker has an equity stake. The results are being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, while the laser technology, which is being developed by several private companies, is expected to be rele
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