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    New Laser Surgery for Cataracts in the Works

    Study Shows Image-Guided Laser Surgery Is Faster and More Precise Than Traditional Surgery

    How Image-Guided Laser Surgery Works continued...

    While it is clear the laser technique improves surgical control and precision, it is not yet clear if its use will result in better patient outcomes for a surgery that already has a high success and low complication rate.

    But results from early clinical trials have been very promising, Salz says.

    In the new pilot study, which included 50 people, patients who got the laser surgery achieved better vision overall, compared to patients whose surgeries were performed manually. But the difference was not statistically significant due to the study’s small size.

    The study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

    Competing Companies

    The laser device used in the study was developed by Stanford associate professor of ophthalmology Daniel Palanker, PhD and colleagues, who conducted a series of experiments on pig, rabbit, and, finally, human eyes.

    One major advantage of the technique, Palanker tells WebMD, is that it requires far less surgical skill than is needed now.

    “Manual cataract surgery is skill dependent,” he says. “Different surgeons have different success rates. This will make cataract surgery much less dependent of the surgeon’s expertise.”

    The system is being developed by OptiMedica, which funded the study. Palanker and five other co-researchers have equity stakes in the company.

    Optimedica President and CEO Mark J. Forchette tells WebMD the company hopes to market the device globally starting next year, pending FDA approval.

    Two other companies -- LenSX Lasers Inc., now owned by Swiss company Alcon, and LensAR Lasers of Winter Park, Fla. -- are testing similar systems. Salz says the LenSX system has been fully approved by the FDA for cataract surgery and the LensAR system has been partially approved.

    “It is a bit of a race, but I expect all three to be approved,” he says. “This won’t replace traditional surgery and it won’t be an option for all patients. But I believe it will be an option for most and it is definitely a game changer. Cataract surgery is already one of the most successful operations we do, but this will take it to another level.”

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