Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is a highly effective, life-changing procedure that can restore your vision and improve your quality of life. With more than 2.5 million cataract cases in Canada, cataract treatment ensures our aging population’s lifestyle quality.

Understanding Cataracts and Their Impact on Vision

Cataracts occur when the eye’s natural lens becomes clouded, causing vision to become blurry and dull. They can develop due to aging, injury, or medical conditions like diabetes.

As cataracts progress, they can significantly impair daily activities, leading to near and distance vision loss. Eventually, your eye doctor’s office may suggest cataract surgery.

LASIK and Cataract Surgery

LASIK, on the other hand, is a surgical procedure that corrects refractive errors like myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. It involves reshaping the cornea to improve the eye’s ability to focus light, resulting in clearer vision without the need for corrective eyewear. While LASIK and cataract surgery are both eye procedures, they address different issues and are not interchangeable. It’s important to consult with an eye doctor to determine which procedure is suitable for your specific condition and needs.


Traditional Cataract Surgery: A Closer Look at the Procedure

Cataract surgery is a safe, effective, and relatively quick outpatient procedure. The steps involved in the surgery are as follows:

  • Anesthesia: The patient receives local anesthesia and sedation to ensure comfort during the procedure.

  • Corneal Incision: The surgeon creates a small incision in the cornea at the beginning of cataract surgery, allowing access to the lens.

  • Lens Removal: The cloudy lens is broken up using ultrasound energy (phacoemulsification) and removed through the incision.

  • Intraocular Lens (IOL) Implantation: An artificial lens, called an IOL, is inserted through the incision and positioned within the lens capsule.

  • Incision Closure: The corneal incision is typically self-sealing and does not require stitches.


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Understanding Traditional Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in many industrialized countries, including cataract surgeries that can be traditional or phacoemulsification-based, also known as manual cataract surgery. This method involves:

  • The removal of the cloudy lens

  • The replacement with an intraocular lens (IOL)

  • Making an incision near the cornea

  • Inserting a thin probe to transmit sound waves

  • Breaking up and removing the cloudy lens

While traditional cataract surgery mainly uses manual techniques, there are instances when a cataract surgeon might incorporate a laser to enhance the manual procedure. This can help augment a manual incision that may be too small and avert lens capsule shrinkage that can cause the lens to become decentered in the future.

Advantages of Traditional Cataract Surgery

Traditional cataract surgery offers many benefits, including:

  • Safe, effective, and reliable treatment for vision impairment caused by cataracts

  • Cost-effectiveness due to shorter duration and lower costs compared to laser-assisted cataract surgery

  • Average operating time of around 10 to 20 minutes, making it a quicker option for cataract removal

Numerous studies attest to the well-established efficacy, safety, and effectiveness of conventional cataract surgery. It has a high success rate, with over 90% of patients experiencing improved vision outcomes. When considering efficiency, efficacy, and safety, traditional cataract surgery holds its ground against other surgical methods, such as laser cataract surgery.

Potential Risks and Complications

Despite the advantages, traditional cataract surgery has its potential risks and complications. Some of these include:

  • Infection

  • Artificial lens dislocation

  • Retinal detachment

  • Corneal edema

  • Prolonged postoperative inflammation

Studies have reported complication rates in traditional cataract surgery ranging from 0.36% to 7.03%.

Laser assisted surgery outperforms traditional cataract surgery in terms of precision. This is because traditional surgery relies on manual techniques and instruments, while laser surgery utilizes a computer-guided laser for more accurate incisions and treatment.

Laser Cataract Surgery Overview

Laser cataract surgery is a modern procedure that uses an imaging device to analyze the eye and determine the optimal location, size, and depth of the incision, which is then created by a laser. This advanced technology allows for highly precise incisions and lens removal, offering additional benefits for specific cases, especially for those who undergo laser cataract surgery.

Astigmatism or the choice of a premium lens may make patients eligible for laser-assisted cataract surgery. In such cases, the laser can create specific incisions in the cornea to reshape it, improving the overall vision and reducing dependence on glasses or contact lenses following the surgery.

Benefits of Laser Cataract Surgery

Laser cataract surgery offers several benefits, including increased precision, reduced ultrasound energy, and compatibility with astigmatism correction and premium lenses. The use of femtosecond lasers in the procedure enables more accurate and reproducible steps in the surgery, leading to improved precision and outcomes.

Laser cataract surgery has several advantages, including:

  • Requiring less ultrasound energy: By using the laser to break up the cataract and soften the lens, the amount of ultrasound energy needed is reduced, limiting the risk of corneal swelling and potential damage to the eye.

  • Suitable for astigmatism correction: Laser cataract surgery can effectively correct astigmatism, improving visual acuity.

  • Effective implantation of premium lenses: Laser cataract surgery allows for the precise placement of premium lenses, reducing dependence on glasses post-surgery and providing enhanced visual acuity.

These benefits make laser cataract surgery a preferred option for many patients.

Drawbacks and Limitations

However, laser cataract surgery isn’t without its drawbacks and limitations. One major drawback is the increased cost compared to traditional cataract surgery. This is due to the newer and more technologically advanced nature of the procedure, as well as the higher initial cost of the laser equipment and technology.

Another limitation is the lack of insurance coverage for laser cataract surgery. Most insurance companies do not cover the procedure, leaving patients to bear the out-of-pocket expenses.

Additionally, there are technical limitations associated with laser cataract surgery, such as dependence on sophisticated technology, potential harm to the incision, and possible temporary adverse effects on the retina.

Comparing Recovery Times

Recovery times for both traditional and laser cataract surgery are largely comparable. The time to be fully recovered after either procedure is around three months. Getting back to regular routine may take up to that amount of time. Most patients notice vision improvements within a few days, and typically achieve full recovery in about three months.

Recovery time doesn’t significantly vary between traditional and laser cataract surgery. To facilitate a swift recovery following either procedure, it is advisable to:

  • Rest

  • Avoid strenuous activities

  • Protect the eyes from irritants and trauma

  • Adhere to the post-operative care instructions provided by the doctor

Generally, a full recovery can be expected within four to six weeks.

Eligibility Criteria for Both Surgeries

Patients with astigmatism, those choosing premium lenses, and those with certain medical conditions are eligible for both traditional and laser cataract surgery. Laser cataract surgery is particularly suitable for astigmatism correction due to its ability to create precise and customizable incisions, which can reshape the cornea and correct the irregular curvature associated with astigmatism.

The choice of a premium lens can also affect the decision between traditional and laser cataract surgery. Premium lenses, such as multifocal or toric lenses, can offer improved vision correction and reduce the need for eyeglasses after the procedure. However, the use of premium lenses is usually not covered by insurance, so patients may experience higher out-of-pocket costs compared to traditional cataract surgery, which involves replacing the cloudy natural lens.

Cost Considerations in Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, traditional cataract surgery is covered by Saskatchewan Health. However, laser cataract surgery, which is more technologically advanced and therefore more expensive, can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $4,500 and has limited coverage. The higher cost of laser cataract surgery is attributed to the state-of-the-art technology used in the procedure and the higher initial cost of the laser equipment.

While Saskatchewan Health covers traditional cataract surgery, patients may still be responsible for certain out-of-pocket costs, such as the cost of advanced technology lenses to decrease their dependency on glasses. However, Saskatchewan Health typically does not cover laser-assisted cataract surgery, which can result in higher costs for patients who choose this advanced procedure.

Making the Right Choice: Factors to Consider

Factors like the suitability for astigmatism correction, premium lenses, and cost differences should be considered when choosing between traditional and laser cataract surgery. Laser cataract surgery offers more precise astigmatism correction than traditional cataract surgery, which can lead to improved vision results.

The selection of a premium lens can also influence the decision between traditional and laser cataract surgery. Some factors to consider include:

  • Improved vision correction

  • Reduced need for eyeglasses after the procedure

  • Potential for more out-of-pocket expenses compared to traditional cataract surgery.

Ultimately, patients should carefully consider their individual needs, preferences, and financial circumstances when choosing between traditional and laser cataract surgery.

Post-Surgery Care and Tips

To achieve optimal results and recovery from cataract surgery, post-surgery care is essential. Here are some tips for post-surgery care:

  1. Adhere to the instructions provided by your ophthalmologist.

  2. Monitor for any potential complications, such as infection or increased pain.

  3. Attend regular eye check-ups to ensure proper healing and monitor your vision.

Following these guidelines will help ensure a successful recovery from cataract surgery.

Should you experience any side effects or complications following cataract surgery, promptly notifying your ophthalmologist is vital. With proper care and adherence to your doctor’s instructions, you can expect a full recovery within four to six weeks after the procedure.


In conclusion, both traditional and laser cataract surgery offer effective means of treating cataracts, with each procedure having its own set of benefits and drawbacks. It is essential to carefully weigh factors such as suitability for astigmatism correction, premium lenses, and cost differences when deciding between the two procedures. By making an informed decision and following proper post-surgery care, you can enjoy improved vision and a better quality of life.