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Implantable collamer lens (ICL) surgery helps address vision issues like nearsightedness (myopia).
During this procedure, an eye surgeon places a soft plastic and collagen-based lens behind the iris.
The lenses are similar to an intraocular lens used in cataract surgery.
However, ICL will be within the posterior chamber (back chamber) of the eye and before the anterior capsule (front surface) of the eye’s natural lens.
ICL surgery is a permanent solution. However, if necessary, your eye doctor can remove the implantable collamer lens.
The lenses work by helping to focus light correctly on the retina and providing clear vision.
When you have nearsightedness, you have blurry distant vision caused by a focusing error. Light from a distant object does not focus on the retina. Instead, it focuses in front of the retina.
You may have heard the term “implantable contact lens” interchangeable with implantable collamer lens. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested the change of name to avoid misunderstandings with corneal contact lenses.6
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ICL surgery is an FDA-approved vision correction procedure. This means that the surgical intervention has undergone an extensive review for safety. The FDA has documented the safety of this eye surgery.
The FDA has reported that the ICL has effectively corrected nearsightedness between -3 diopters (D) to -15 D. It also partially corrects nearsightedness of up to -20 D in eyes with up to 2.5 D of astigmatism.
Also, in a clinical study evaluating 526 eyes of 294 patients, 94.7% of patients who underwent the procedure described having 20/40 or better without glasses or contact lenses.7
Eye doctors do not know the exact, possibly long-lasting impact of ICL on the eye after its removal or replacement.
There is also not enough data to support statements about either the long-term impact on the corneal endothelium (a single layer of cells that cover the posterior cornea) or long-term risks of vision problems, including:
Lastly, there has not been a safety and effectiveness assessment of ICL for the correction of moderate-to-high nearsightedness in patients with:
The FDA deems those as good candidates for ICL surgery if you meet the following characteristics:
Contraindications for vision correction procedures like this one include:
ICL surgery consists of the following steps:
Recovery time varies.
You should follow the doctor’s instructions to avoid delaying the healing process. It is also important to not rub your eyes for the first 3 to 5 days. This can irritate or cause further injury to the eye.
During recovery, you may experience light sensitivity. You may also feel like something is lodged in the eye. Sunglasses can help you feel more at ease.
If you feel additional pain, speak with your eye doctor. They may be able to prescribe you pain medications.
Patients with higher amounts of nearsightedness are at higher risk for symptoms before and after ICL surgery. The symptoms tend to be more frequent and severe in these patients.
This procedure is successful in many patients.
An FDA 3-year follow-up study of ICL observed high rates of improved vision overall.
Also, other studies have found ICL surgery to be superior to LASIK eye surgery in patients with more severe myopia (nearsightedness).
Also, compared to patients who underwent LASIK, patients who opted for ICL had fewer cases of dry eyes or discomfort. The latter group also reported fewer limitations in normal activities and better vision-related quality of life.
The advantages of undergoing ICL surgery include:
The disadvantages of undergoing ICL surgery include:
Costs will vary according to where you live, your eye surgeon’s expertise, and other contributing factors. This procedure may also not receive coverage by most health insurance policies.
ICL surgery costs between $1,500 and $5,000 per eye.
Speak with your eye clinic and health insurance company about the financial options available.
Fernández-Vega-Cueto, Luis, et al. “Implantable Collamer Lens with Central Hole: 3-Year Follow-Up.” Clinical Ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.), Dove Medical Press, 11 Oct. 2018.
“Implantable Collamer Lens.” EyeWiki, 18 Apr. 2020.
“Implantable Contact Lenses (Phakic Intraocular Lenses).” University of Utah Health.
Kaur, M, et al. “Indications for Explant of Implantable Collamer Lens.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 12 Jan. 2018.
Swan, Russell, and Mark Mifflin. “Moran Core.” Moran CORE | Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) Explantation and Cataract Surgery.
“United States Food and Drug Administration Clinical Trial of the Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) for Moderate to High Myopia.” Ophthalmology, American Academy of Ophthalmology.
“Visian ICL (Implantable Collamer Lens) For Nearsightedness.”, Food and Drug Administration. Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.