Cataract surgery is a fairly common procedure that involves removing the cloudy lens of an eye (cataract) and replacing it with an artificial lens. The procedure is performed to help eliminate blurred or cloudy vision caused by cataracts.
There are three basic methods for performing cataract surgery: phacoemulsification, extracapsular cataract surgery and intracapsular cataract surgery. All three procedures usually provide the same results, with the only difference being how the cataract is removed. Doctors determine which method is best by looking at the extent of the cataract.
Phacoemulsification is the most common procedure. It requires only minimal sedation and can be performed in under half an hour. In this procedure, the doctor makes a tiny incision in the eye and then uses an ultrasonic probe to send out vibrations that break up the cataract. The pieces of the lens are then sucked out, and the artificial lens is inserted in place of the clouded one.
If the cataract is more advanced, causing the lens to be too thick to dissolve, doctors make a larger incision to remove the cataract whole and then replace it with the artificial lens. This procedure is known as extracapsular cataract surgery.
As of 2014, Intracapsular cataract surgery is rarely used, as it removes both the lens and the capsule that surrounds it. In this procedure, the artificial lens is then inserted in front of the iris.