Phacoemulsification is the process of lens removal using ultrasound.
After the capsulotomy, or capsulorhexis, is created, the lens material may now be removed. The process of lens fragmentation and removal is discussed here.
This is part of a series of articles we are publishing to inform and educate our patients about the advantages of laser cataract surgery.
There are several steps of cataract surgery. These are the steps of laser cataract surgery where the laser is very useful.
Phacoemulsification – Removing the Lens
Phacoemulsification is the process of removing the lens material using ultrasound. A thin instrument called the emulsifier, about the size of a pencil, is introduced into the eye through the corneal incision to fragment and emulsify the lens into tiny pieces. The material is then easily aspirated out of the eye.
Lens material varies in thickness, density or hardness. The harder the lens, the more difficult it is to break up into smaller pieces. More energy is needed to remove hard lenses. This increase in energy can produce heat causing the instrument to get hot. This heat can burn the edges of the corneal incision and cause astigmatism.
Harder lenses also require more time to fragment and remove. This increases the chances of complications such as dislocation of the lens or parts of the lens into the vitreous.
During the process of laser cataract surgery, the laser can be used to pre-treat the lens before the fragmentation process. “Softening” of the lens with the laser does not create heat, thus the lens is broken up much more easily and safely as less ultrasonic energy is needed during the phacoemulsification process.
There is much less chance of burning the cornea if the lens is pretreated with the laser before phacoemulsficiation, hence, less heat is created, thus avoiding a corneal burn and causing astigmatism.