Now, robots will perform cataract surgery. Femto-second laser, the latest innovation approved by the Food and Drug Authority (USA) in December 2010, brings added precision and safety in treating cataracts — the clouding of the natural lens of the eye, say opthalmologists.
So far, cataracts, mostly caused due to ageing were treated using Phaco-emulsification, where a small needle, introduced in the eye to break the cataract, would suck it out and then a new lens is implanted to improve the vision.
In the new technology, a cone is placed on the eye and the laser light is fired at the target in a pre-determined manner. Since it is computer-controlled, the accuracy in achieving the desired result is higher.
“In robotic surgery the surgeon’s skill may not necessarily be very high as the computer-fed programme performs the surgery with utmost precision,” said Dr Mahipal Sachdev, chairman and medical director, Centre For Sight.
“There are clinical trials going on in Hyderabad which have shown some great results in about 300-400 patients. We are hoping to procure the technology in Delhi by end-2011.”
The femto-second laser is priced at R4.5 crore approximately. “The only thing keeping ophthalmologists from buying this technology is its prohibitive cost. Along with the high cost of the machine, the company is also demanding Rs 55,000 per eye surgery,” said Dr Sachdev.
This technology, though a breakthrough, will make cataract surgery three times more expensive. “At the moment, we are doing a premium cataract surgery for Rs 45,000 and a basic package is still lower at about R15,000. The new technology will cost the user at least Rs 1,30,000,” said Dr S. Bharti, medical director, Bharti Eye Foundation.
“New technology always comes with a high price tag but with time they even out,” he said.