Intraocular Refractive Surgery
Disorders that require glasses or contacts (e.g. nearsightedness) may be addressed by vision correction surgery. By definition, intraocular refractive surgery is performed inside the eye as opposed to on the cornea. Two types of intraocular refractive surgery are described below: phakic intraocular lens and refractive lens exchange (clear lens extraction).
It is important to note that intraocular refractive surgery is an option for the treatment of refractive errors in healthy eyes. Conditions such as macular degeneration or glaucoma may preclude this vision correction option. Refractive errors are defined below.
- Myopia - Nearsightedness; parallel light rays focus in front of the retina, making distant objects blurry.
- Hyperopia - Farsightedness; parallel light rays focus behind the retina, making near objects blurry.
- Astigmatism - Steeper meridians in a cornea or lens that bend light more strongly, preventing a single point of focus.
- Presbyopia - Age-related decrease in focusing power of eye's natural lens, often making near objects blurry.
Currently in the United States, phakic intraocular lenses are only available to treat myopia. Refractive lens exchange is most commonly used to treat significant hyperopia in patients with presbyopia.
The need for glasses or contacts is clear evidence that a form of refractive error is present.
Many times, intolerance of contact lenses or job requirements for uncorrected vision warrant evaluation for vision correction. Some people are not candidates cornea procedures (e.g. LASIK or laser in situ keratomileusis) due to dry eye disease, thin corneal tissue, or extreme levels of near- or farsightedness. It is under these circumstances that intraocular refractive procedures are often considered.
Routinely, best corrected vision is determined along with eye pressure and neurological function. A thorough examination of the front and back of the eye is necessary to determine candidacy.
Determination of corneal thickness, pupil size, and corneal endothelial cell count is also advisable. Eye length/dimensions as well as the shape and power of the cornea are calculated.
Phakic Intraocular Lens surgery involves placement of an artificial lens inside the eye without disturbing the eye's natural lens. The eye is numbed with eye drops or local anesthetic. Microscopic holes are created in the peripheral iris either with a laser or with scissors to encourage normal eye pressure after phakic intraocular lens placement. Small incisions are created near the periphery of the cornea. A space filling jelly-like medication, known as an ophthalmic viscosurgical device, is placed in front of the iris to deepen the structures and create room for lens insertion. Lens insertion follows with an injection apparatus or forceps. The phakic intraocular lens is then either affixed in front of the iris (e.g. Verisyse) or placed behind it (e.g. Visian ICL), depending on the model used. The ophthalmic viscosurgical device is removed and replaces with balanced salt solution. The procedure is performed one eye at a time and may be done sequentially on the same day. Sutures are used for the Verisyse incision but are not routinely required for the Visian ICL procedure. There is routinely minimal discomfort. Eye drops are prescribed and typically used for about one month after surgery.
Refractive Lens Exchange surgery is simply cataract surgery with intraocular lens placement prior to the formation of a cataract. This option corrects the refractive error as well as eliminates the formation of cataract in the future. The eye is numbed with eye drops or local anesthetic. Small incisions are created near the periphery of the cornea. A space filling jelly-like medication, known as an ophthalmic viscosurgical device, is placed in front of the iris to deepen the structures and to allow controlled access to the eye's natural lens. An opening in the natural lens is created, and the internal material is mobilized with balanced salt solution. A vacuum probe removes the internal material, thereby creating space for an intraocular lens. The intraocular lens is flexible enough to be injected through a small incision and self-fixate inside the remaining capsule of the natural lens. Sutures are not routinely required, and discomfort is usually minimal. Eye drops are prescribed and typically used for about one month after surgery.
Surgical follow up
Intraocular refractive surgery does require follow up with a qualified doctor. One possible follow up schedule could be: the day after surgery, one week after surgery, and one month after surgery. Annual checks are advisable after most intraocular surgery.
Infection, inflammation, glaucoma, endothelial cell loss, iris abnormalities and retinal detachment have been associated with phakic intraocular lenses and as such, and endothelial cell count, intra-ocular pressure measurement and a dilated fundus exam may be indicated during follow-up examinations.
FDA trials for currently available phakic intraocular lenses (spherical correction of nearsightedness) have shown that better than 80% of patients saw 20/40 or better without correction. Ongoing monitoring has shown acceptably low incidence of endothelial cell loss, cataract formation, secondary glaucoma (pupillary block, pigment dispersion), iris atrophy (pupil ovalization), and traumatic dislocation. At least annual eye examinations are recommended for phakic intraocular lens patients.
Refractive lens exchange surgery outcomes have been published less in the medical literature. Its frequency of success is believed to be high in appropriate patients, but the risk of retinal detachment may be as high as 8% in selected patients. High myopia without prior posterior vitreous separation can be considered an elevated risk for retinal detachment in refractive lens exchange patients. Postoperative scar formation behind the implant lens is also a possible risk that frequently requires a Nd:YAG laser to eliminate blur.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology. Refractive Management/Intervention: Intraocular refractive surgery Practicing Ophthalmologists Learning System, 2017 - 2019 San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2017.
- Huang D, Schallhorn SC, Sugar A, Farjo AA, Majmudar PA, Trattler WB, Tanzer DJ. Ophthalmology. 2009; 116:2244-58. Phakic intraocular lens implantation for the correction of myopia: a report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- Fong CS. Singapore Med J. 2007; 48:709-18. Refractive surgery: the future of perfect vision?
- Koch DD, Harvey TM. Conn's Current Therapy. 2006;227-30. Vision Correction Procedures.