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Eye (Lond). 2013 Apr;27(4):461-73. doi: 10.1038/eye.2012.293. Epub 2013 Feb 1.

The journey to femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery: new beginnings or a false dawn?

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Eye Unit, University Hospital Southampton Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK.


Femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery (FLACS) represents a potential paradigm shift in cataract surgery, but it is not without controversy. Advocates of the technology herald FLACS as a revolution that promises superior outcomes and an improved safety profile for patients. Conversely, detractors point to the large financial costs involved and claim that similar results are achievable with conventional small-incision phacoemulsification. This review provides a balanced and comprehensive account of the development of FLACS since its inception. It explains the physiology and mechanics underlying the technology, and critically reviews the outcomes and implications of initial studies. The benefits and limitations of using femtosecond laser accuracy to create corneal incisions, anterior capsulotomy, and lens fragmentation are explored, with reference to the main platforms, which currently offer FLACS. Economic considerations are discussed, in addition to the practicalities associated with the implementation of FLACS in a healthcare setting. The influence on surgical training and skills is considered and possible future applications of the technology introduced. While in its infancy, FLACS sets out the exciting possibility of a new level of precision in cataract surgery. However, further work in the form of large scale, phase 3 randomised controlled trials are required to demonstrate whether its theoretical benefits are significant in practice and worthy of the necessary huge financial investment and system overhaul. Whether it gains widespread acceptance is likely to be influenced by a complex interplay of scientific and socio-economic factors in years to come.

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