Different Techniques of Removing Cataracts

Cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye and is one of the world’s leading causes of blindness.The only treatment for this eye condition is surgery, whereby the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a new, artificial lens, usually made of plastic. Historically there have been some remarkable cataract removal methods, that seen tremendous improvement, allowing for safe cataract surgery we know today.

There are various surgical techniques for removing the opacified lens – we briefly discuss four methods that have been used successfully for comparison:

  • Phacoemulsification is practiced in developed countries where a machine with an ultrasonic hand-piece, with a steel tips is used to remove the cataract. Research shows that phacoemulsification method gives superior results. This “phaco” technique was created by Charles Kelman in the 1960s.

  • Benefit: This technology is continuously being developed, and has the most success rate, since the required size for the incision is continuing getting smaller.

  • Extracapsular Cataract Extraction (ECCE) technique is considered to be less expensive than phacoemulsification, however research results have shown that more complications occur in this method. ECCE is practiced more in developing countries. In ECCE, the lens is taken out, but the capsule that stabilizes the lens remains intact.

  • Benefit: Today, ECCE technique is not used as commonly as phacoemulsification, but is helpful when removing extremely advanced cataracts when they cannot be easily removed by phaco.

  • Intra-capsular Cataract Extraction (ICCE) involves the removal of the lens plus the area around the capsule and is performed when the cataract is extreme.

  • Cons of ICCE: This technique was used widely in the ‘80s, but is rarely still used due to the involves taking out the total natural lens of the eye, along with the capsule. It’s a rarely used technique today, ad the incision is large, giving rise to a high risk of retinal detachment and inflammation.

  • Small Incision Cataract Surgery (SICS) is commonly used technique in many developing couintries by ophthalmologists. This non-phaco small incision surgery is just as effective when done correctly. The self-sealing incision method gives a low risk of astigmatism developing.  

  • Pros of SICS: Compared to phaco, the manual SICS method requires less resources, can be conducted with virtually any variation of cataract, and involves less training in comparison to Phaco.
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