During cataract surgery, the clouded natural lens of the eye is replaced with a new plastic lens called an intraocular lens implant. Typically, this procedure can be performed under eye drop anesthesia in just a matter of minutes as an outpatient at an ambulatory surgery center. The new lens implant is available in various shapes and sizes. Some are used for those with underlying nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism as well as for those needing bifocals or trifocals.
The so-called “standard” lens implants have a single focus point and are used for those with just simple nearsightedness or farsightedness. If astigmatism is present, however, the vision could still appear out of focus or even doubled unless corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. As an option, specialized lens implants are available, referred to as Toric implants, that can be used for those with astigmatism which are designed to improve distance vision without the necessity of relying completely on eyeglasses. In addition, more advanced “Bifocal” lens implants have been developed to reduce the dependency on glasses for both near and distance activities such as when reading or while driving. These premium lenses are often called accommodating or multifocal lens implants.
Using these special lenses, the majority of individuals can do about 85% of routine daily activities without the need for corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses. While most insurances, including Medicare, consider Bifocal and Toric lens implants to be a non-covered “lifestyle” benefit, patients are allowed to pay the cost difference if they would prefer an upgraded lens. Currently, between 15% to 25% of patients choose one of these lenses and the trend is increasing over the past two decades as advances in lens technology has improved the optical performance and achieved better unaided vision. As many eye conditions can reduce the success of Bifocal or Toric lens implants, a comprehensive ocular evaluation should be completed to allow a more accurate discussion of candidacy for and benefits of such premium lenses.
Mark A. Pavilack, M.D.
Cornea, Cataract, and Refractive Surgery Specialist