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Let There Be Light

St. Mary’s new blade-free cataract surgery

By P. A . Sévigny

Even though it’s only been a few days since he had surgery to remove the cataract from his left eye, John Mulik, a 74-year-old golfer, can see the ball in the air before it hits the green. “It took them longer to prepare me for the surgery than it did to actually do it,” says Mr. Mulik. “There was no pain, and I was out of there [St. Mary’s Hospital] in less than an hour.”

Speed and accuracy of said surgery were increased because Dr. Conrad Kavalec, chief of the ophthalmology department at Montreal’s St. Mary’s Hospital, used the hospital’s new, ultra-precise laser technology to remove and replace the lens in Mr. Mulik’s eye. As the hospital is already known to be one of Québec’s high-volume eye clinics with a specialty in cataract surgery, its directors intend to remain on the cutting edge of new ophthalmological developments. “When this machine makes a cut, it’s perfect,” says Dr. Kavalec, adding that no human hand comes even close to doing this kind of work.

Since the hospital’s LenSx system uses a laser to make the cut, there is no use for the diamond blades the surgeon requires to create a circular opening to get at the patient’s compromised lens. According to Dr. Kavalec, it doesn’t take much more than a minute for the machine’s laser to make four equal cuts around the patient’s cornea after which the surgeon ‘cracks’ the lens in order to destroy it with a standard ultrasonic probe. Once the surgeon removes the old lens, the eye is then ready to receive its new (and improved) acrylic replacement.

Although the hospital’s eye clinic already has one of the lowest complication and post-operative infection rates for cataract surgery in the country, (less than 1 percent) Kavalec is confident that the hospital’s new laser technology will further reduce the possibility for infection as well as produce better results for the patient’s vision.

Although routine cataract surgeries are covered by the province (as are the most basic replacement lenses), patients should know that the hospital’s new surgical process will cost up to $1,100, which helps cover the cost of the new LenSx system. While St. Mary’s is the first public hospital in North America to use the new technology, Dr. Kavalec mentioned that the LenSx laser system is presently being used in private clinics all over the continent. That said, a private clinic may charge anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 for the same operation.

Dr. Kavalec says he is determined to deliver the best care to all of his patients and, as a result of his initiative, he is confident the hospital’s success will speak for itself. “Within the next few years,” he says, “the process will be used in every eye clinic in Québec.”

Winter 2015, Vol 7 N°1

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