What is YAG Laser Capsulotomy?
A posterior capsulotomy or YAG laser capsulotomy is a type of laser eye surgery. It’s necessary for many people who experience cloudy vision after cataract surgery.
A YAG capsulotomy is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures. While a YAG laser capsulotomy is generally a non-invasive and safe treatment with a high success rate, it still carries the risk of complications.
Who Needs a YAG Laser Capsulotomy?
YAG surgery is typically used to treat a common complication of cataract surgery. During cataract surgery, an ophthalmologist removes the cloudy eye's lens and replaces it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). The IOL is held in place inside the eye's natural lens capsule
Posterior Capsule Opacification
About 20% of people who have had cataract surgery get cloudy vision afterward. This condition is called posterior capsule opacification (PCO), but it’s also known as a secondary cataract.
PCO is when scar tissue forms in your eye’s natural lens capsule behind an IOL implant. This can occur weeks, months, or years after cataract surgery.
YAG capsulotomy uses a laser to make an opening in the cloudy capsule. This allows light to pass through, providing clear vision. YAG laser capsulotomy is recognized as the standard treatment for this condition.
In addition to treating PCO, YAG laser treatment is sometimes used for a LASIK surgery complication called epithelial cell ingrowth. This condition occurs when an increase in epithelial cells obscures vision.
Epithelial cell ingrowth is a relatively uncommon complication of LASIK. Treatment is generally needed when the ingrowth decreases vision.
What to Expect from a YAG Capsulotomy
A YAG laser capsulotomy is a quick, outpatient procedure that takes less than 20 minutes. It’ll happen in your ophthalmologist’s office or an outpatient surgical center. You won’t have to stay in a hospital.
How is the Procedure Done?
Here’s what happens during a YAG procedure:
- You will get numbing eye drops to prevent discomfort
- You may also get dilating eye drops to increase your pupil size
- Your ophthalmologist will use a YAG laser beam to create an opening at the back of the lens (posterior capsule)
- This opening allows light to pass through the clouded capsule and reach your retina
- Enabling light to reach your retina restores clear vision
Recovery and Postoperative Care
After YAG surgery, you’ll wait in the outpatient surgery area or doctor's office for a short time. This is so your doctor can check the pressure in your eye (intraocular pressure) before you leave. You may need to have someone else drive you home.
You won’t feel any pain since your eyes were numbed during the procedure. You won’t have any bandages or stitches, either.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops (topical steroids) or oral medicines. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for taking these.
How Long Does it Take Vision to Improve?
Most people have clear vision within 24 hours after a YAG procedure. If there are other problems affecting your vision, this may take longer.
You should be able to return to work or your normal routine the day after surgery. A YAG procedure typically includes routine follow-up appointments to monitor your eye pressure and check for complications.
How Effective is YAG Surgery?
About 95% of people with significant PCO experience clear vision within one day after YAG laser capsulotomy. Most people will notice an improvement in their vision as early as the next morning after the procedure.
Although rare, some people experience vision problems after a YAG laser procedure. People should call their eye doctor immediately if they experience blurry vision or their eyesight worsens.
These are signs of serious complications, which may include:
- Torn retina
- Bleeding in the back of your eye
Is YAG Capsulotomy Safe?
While YAG capsulotomy is generally considered safe, it can sometimes lead to complications. Potential risks and complications after a YAG capsulotomy include:
- Eye swelling. Steroid eye drops can reduce swelling in your eye
- Macular edema: A buildup of fluid in the central area of the retina
- An increase in floaters. These appear as black spots or flashes of light that drift across your eyes, this may be a sign of retinal detachment; contact your doctor immediately if this happens
- An increase in intraocular pressure (IOP). Occurs when fluid builds up inside your eye
- IOL movement. Artificial lens might move through the opening in the posterior capsule
Rare Complications of YAG Capsulotomy
In rare cases, people have experienced the following complications:
- IOL damage
- Eye inflammation (iritis and vitritis)
- Cystoid macular edema
- Pupillary block glaucoma
- Aqueous misdirection syndrome
- Macular hole
- Retinal hemorrhage
As with cataract surgery, weighing the risks and possible benefits of laser capsulotomy before deciding to have YAG surgery is crucial.
How Much Does YAG Laser Capsulotomy Cost?
The cost of a YAG Laser Surgery ranges from a few hundred dollars to almost $1,500 to $4,000. However, YAG is considered a medically necessary procedure. Because of this, the surgery cost is typically covered by insurance.
YAG laser capsulotomy, or posterior capsulotomy, is a type of laser surgery conducted after cataract surgery. It's a necessary procedure for people who experience cloudy vision.
A few weeks, months, or years after cataract surgery, the artificial intraocular lens (IOL) used to replace your eye's natural capsule can become wrinkled. This causes blurry vision, which YAG laser surgery treats using a laser to open the cloudy capsule.
YAG capsulotomy is a safe and non-invasive treatment. However, there are rare cases where the procedure can lead to serious complications. Contact your doctor immediately if serious side effects occur.
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