New laser helps ease cataract surgery

PHILADELPHIA - July 31, 2012

74-year-old John Jerbasi is an avid golfer.

"There's 2 more sets upstairs, 2 sets in the dining room and then this one," he says, smiling.

When he's not spending time with his grandkids, he likes to be out on the course.

But that changed a few years ago, when his ability to see in the distance started to fade.

"So when I hit a ball off the tee, once the ball got about 50 yards, it's still in the air, I couldn't see the ball so you hit it and have no idea where it's going or where it ends up," he says.

John has cataracts, a clouding of the lens that's very common as people age.

The surgery to fix cataracts is also common.

But because John has astigmatism and other medical problems. Dr. Richard Tipperman at Wills Eye Institute suggested doing the procedure with a new, FDA-approved laser.

"The more you use this laser the more impressed you get with how good this technology is," Dr. Tipperman notes.

He says the laser does what doctors traditionally do free-hand.

It uses super-fast bursts of energy, lasting a femtosecond, or one-quadrillionth of a second-- to make the incision, soften the cataract and fix the astigmatism. He says it is gentler and more precise.

"Anything that can make the operation more predictable, more accurate and more controllable should end up leading to better results for patients," he notes.

John already had one eye done, and says it restored his vision to almost perfect.

Now that the other eye is done, he's looking forward to getting back to his favorite pastime.

"In a couple of days, why not?," he quips.

And John now has 20-25 vision in both eyes which is close to perfect. So that should help his golf game.

To be suitable for the surgery, patients will need to be able to lie still and their eyes must be able to dilate wide enough.

Dr. Tipperman says that is usually not a problem.

Right now, Wills Eye is the only one doing the new procedure in our area.

Medicare benefits cover standard cataract surgery, but not with the femtosecond laser. Medicare recipients cannot be charged for femtosecond laser cataract surgery unless it is done with a non-covered service such as correction of astigmatism or elective refractive lens exchange. Patients who do qualify could pay about two-thousand dollars more.

Patients should talk with their own doctor about options for cataract surgery, as well as the costs and insurance coverage. For more information on cataracts, call Wills Eye Institute at 215-928-3000 or 1-877-289-4557. For information on the femtosecond laser cataract technique, call Wills Main Line Surgery Center- 610-949-9066.

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