HINSDALE – On a scratch piece of paper outside an operating room at the Hinsdale Surgical Center, Dr. Sophia Sarkos sketched out with diagrams “the latest and greatest” in eye surgery technology – the Femtosecond laser.
Sarkos’ drawings and explanation simplified what makes this state-of-the-art surgical tool special.
“Basically the laser can do incisions, plus it can do what we call arcuate incisions, which help reduce the astigmatism and the patient is then less likely to need glasses after the cataract surgery, so it becomes a refractive procedure,” said Sarkos, of Oak Brook.
In layman’s terms, the future has arrived at Hinsdale Surgical Center. On Jan. 21, the Femto laser was used for the first time at the facility on patients with aspirations of increasing success rates for improved vision.
“It’s kind of the latest and greatest of laser technology for doing cataract surgery, so it’s really exciting,” Recovery Room Manager Jan Cavanaugh said.
Sarkos said during cataract surgery, the lens of the eye is actually encapsulated. As a person ages, the inside of that lens becomes cloudy, which is then referred to as a cataract.
Typically in cataract surgery, doctors would take an instrument and make an incision in the eye by hand, then remove that cataract material. That incision can now be made with the laser.
“What it really does allow us to do is have perfectly reproducible things,” Sarkos said. “The goal of surgery is to make things reproducible because that adds to safety.”
Most Femto lasers are used in the university setting, and the closest facility to have such a laser is Elmhurst Hospital, said Dawn Kiesling, administrator at Larson Eye Center.
The Femto laser does several things during this initial stage of surgery. The first is the incision near the cornea, followed by nuclear fragmentation, or the softening of the lens.
Using the Femto laser is also part of a refractive procedure, which means the patient is less likely to need glasses or contact lenses after recovery. Sarkos said there is no pain; patients just feel a slight sensation of pressure.
“I think patients were surprised how comfortable [the laser] was,” she said. “Patients are awake and they have a little bit of sedation we give them, but they’re awake. Both my patients today I think we’re a little bit nervous and they both said it wasn’t bad at all; they were pleasantly surprised.”
Administrator Henry DeVries said the center started exploring the laser about a year ago and, in September 2013, decided to move forward with bringing it in.
“We have a very high ophthalmology volume,” DeVries said. “We felt in order to stay competitive we had to have access to this technology.”
Cavanaugh said the recovery time is close to a month. And on the laser’s first day, she said there weren’t any problems or discomfort from patients after surgery.
“The reality is you’re working with a great team of professionals,” Sarkos said. “We have excellent nurses, excellent staff. They’re there to walk you through it so you know what to expect.”