Kerry Solomon, MD, is a practicing cataract and LASIK surgeon at Physicians' Eye Surgery Center in Charleston, S.C.
Q: Your practice is one of the first to have the LenSx femtosecond laser from Alcon. Can you explain its potential?
Kerry Solomon: This equipment helps surgeons correct astigmatism in cataract surgery patients. It is a breakthrough for cataract patients on par with LASIK, back when it was introduced in the early 1990s. The LenSx laser is used on cataract patients with low amounts of astigmatism. Patients with high amounts of astigmatism need a Toric intraocular lens, but the lens only corrects in half-diopter steps while the LenSx can make further adjustments.
Q: How many practices have LenSx equipment?
KS: There are about 10-14 units out there so far. Ours was delivered in mid-June. There are others in Houston, Utah, New York, Missouri, North Dakota, and a few places outside the United States. Our equipment has gone through several technology upgrades since installation, and that has helped speed up the process.
Q: What is the cost of the unit?
KS: The LenSx unit costs $500,000-$600,000. But the price is expected to come down because this technology is evolving very rapidly. In six months to a year, several other makers are expected to receive FDA approval and market their own devices. Companies are also trying to make the equipment mobile, so that it can be shared, which will take 2-3 years.
Q: How does the process work?
KS: The LenSx laser is used on patients before they go into the OR for cataract surgery. It creates precise incisions that are not opened, so there is not risk of infection at this step. The incisions are then opened in the OR very quickly, using a blunt blade. While the overall time for the patient is longer than regular cataract surgery, time in the OR is shorter. Because LenSx requires a different length of time, we stagger these cases, doing one for every 3-4 regular cataract cases.
Q: How much do patients pay for the procedure?
KS: The cataract patient pays $1,500-$3,000 out of pocket. At the low end of that range, patients are paying just for correcting the astigmatism. At the high end, they are paying for a multifocal lens as well. This is more than they pay for regular cataract surgery. The extra expenses cover the price of the equipment, a per-procedure fee for disposables involved in each case and the lens, if one is used.
Learn more about Physicians' Eye Surgery Center.
Learn more about the LenSx femtosecond laser.
Related Articles on Cataract Surgery: