Updated on  October 14, 2022
4 min read

YAG Laser Capsulotomy

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What is YAG Laser Capsulotomy?

A YAG laser capsulotomy is a type of laser eye surgery. It’s a necessity 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?

Also called a posterior capsulotomy, YAG surgery treats a common complication of cataract surgery. When a cataract is removed, your ophthalmologist replaces the cloudy lens with a clear, artificial one. This is called an intraocular lens (IOL).

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 laser capsulotomy is recognized as the standard treatment for this condition.

Other Conditions

In addition to treating PCO, YAG laser treatment is sometimes used for a LASIK surgery complication called epithelial cell ingrowth. This condition occurs when there is an increase in epithelial cells that obscure vision.

What to Expect from a YAG Capsulotomy

A YAG laser capsulotomy is a quick 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.

YAG Procedure: Step-By-Step

Here’s what happens during a YAG procedure:

  1. You will get numbing  eye drops to prevent discomfort 
  2. You may also get dilating eye drops to increase your pupil size
  3. Your ophthalmologist will  use a YAG laser beam to create an opening at the back of the lens (posterior capsule)
  4. This opening allows light to pass through the clouded capsule and reach your retina 
  5. 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 patients with significant PCO experience clear vision within one day after YAG laser capsulotomy.

Most patients will notice an improvement in their vision as early as the next morning after the procedure.

Although rare, some patients experience vision problems after a YAG laser procedure.

Patients should call their eye doctor right away if they experience blurry vision or if their eyesight worsens. These are signs of serious complications.

Is YAG Capsulotomy Safe?

While YAG capsulotomy is generally considered safe, it can lead to complications in some cases. 

Potential risks and complications  after a YAG capsulotomy include:

  • Eye swelling. Steroid eye drops can reduce swelling in your eye.
  • Macular edema. This is 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. Call your doctor right away if this happens. It can be a sign of retinal detachment.
  • An increase in intraocular pressure (IOP). This occurs when fluid builds up inside your eye.
  • IOL movement. The artificial lens might move through the opening in the posterior capsule.

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, it is crucial to weigh the risks and possible benefits of laser capsulotomy before deciding to have YAG surgery.

How Much Does YAG Laser Capsulotomy Cost?

The cost of a YAG Laser Surgery ranges from a few hundred dollars to almost $1,500.

Cataract surgery costs are typically covered by insurance.

YAG is considered medically necessary and covered by insurance when performed following cataract extraction.

Updated on  October 14, 2022
12 sources cited
Updated on  October 14, 2022
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  2. Brennan, Kristine. “Shutting the Door on Epithelial Ingrowth.” Review of Ophthalmology, 2018.
  3. Bunting, H., Laganowski, H. “Routine follow-up after YAG laser capsulotomy for posterior capsule opacification.” Eye, 2006.
  4. Chun, Adam G. “Comparison Of Incidence Of Cystoid Macular Edema Following Nd: YAG Capsulotomy In Postoperative Treatment With Topical Steroids Versus Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.” Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 2011.
  5. Heltzer, James M. “How Quickly Does YAG Improve Vision?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2014.
  6. How Much Does a YAG Laser Surgery Cost Near Me?” MDsave, n.d.
  7. Karahan, Eyyup, et al. “An Overview of Nd: YAG Laser Capsulotomy.” Medical Hypothesis, Discovery & Innovation Ophthalmology Journal, 2014.
  8. Koviak, Kathleen. “Posterior Capsule Opacification.” Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan Health System, 2015.
  9. Learning About YAG Laser Capsulotomy.” MyHealth.Alberta.ca Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal, 2021.
  10. Raj, Shetal M, et al. “Post-Operative Capsular Opacification: A Review.” International Journal of Biomedical Science, 2007.
  11. Wilkinson, C P. “Approximately How Much Does a YAG Procedure Cost?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2013.
  12. Boyd, Kierstan. “What Is a Posterior Capsulotomy?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2022.
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