LACS: Are the Benefits Worth the Cost?

Laser-assisted cataract surgery (LACS) has been steadily growing in popularity. As of 2016, LACS now accounts for 8.8 percent of all cataract procedures in the United States, up from 6.6 percent the previous year. Over 90 percent of ophthalmic surgeons predict they’ll use the femtosecond laser for at least some of their procedures in the next ten years, and over one third of surgeons believe they’ll exclusively offer LACS. In that same survey, only 5 percent of the respondents claimed that they were not planning to use at all in the next decade.

With all the hype surrounding laser-assisted cataract surgery, you might wonder whether bringing this laser to your practice is worthwhile. Are the benefits worth the cost?

The benefits

There are many reasons why doctors have started using the femtosecond laser for cataract surgery. Here are only a few of them:

  • Laser-assisted cataract surgery can be offered to most patients regardless of cataract severity, age and physiological characteristics.
  • When compared with traditional cataract surgery, laser-assisted cataract surgery results in more consistent and reliable corneal incisions which may therefore reduce the risk of postoperative endophthalmitis.
  • Laser-assisted cataract surgery involves greater precision and better capsulotomy sizing than manual procedures.
  • The procedure results in a significantly lower rate of anterior capsule tears compared to manual techniques.
  • The precision associated with laser-assisted cataract surgery means that surgeons can remove the lens with significantly less phacoemulsification power, reducing the eye’s overall ultrasound exposure.
  • Laser-assisted cataract surgery may make challenging cases more straightforward, since it’s easier to make precise adjustments and avoid damaging the eye.

The costs

Despite the numerous advantages associated with using a femtosecond laser for cataract surgery, many doctors hesitate to bring this technology to their practice. Why?

  • Laser-assisted cataract surgery requires a greater time commitment than manual surgery, at least at first. Surgeons need to adapt to an entirely new piece of technology, as well as organize their OR flow to account for an additional laser.
  • Adding laser-assisted cataract surgery to your practice can be very expensive. Not only does the laser cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but hidden fees make recouping the investment even more difficult. Physicians must serve enough patients and determine how their patients will pay for the procedure. If physicians purchase a laser through a payment plan, they must commit to the laser until they’ve paid it off, a process that can take over five years.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

After training more than 500 surgeons in LACS, Sightpath Medical has grown intimately familiar with both the hurdles and the triumphs associated with adopting this new technology.

From our experience, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. This is in part because the costs can overcome with practice, adequate patient flow and financial planning.

  • Time commitment woes: We’ve found that most surgeons can perform the laser cataract portion of their surgery in just three minutes by the time they’ve performed enough cases to be successfully credentialed. Science backs us up too – research has found that the learning curve for femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery is similar to (or even faster than!) the learning curve associated with traditional phacoemulsification.
  • Cost concerns: Physicians who are worried about the cost of the equipment can purchase a femtosecond laser together with a group of likeminded surgeons. Sharing the laser can significantly reduce its associated cost, although it may make their surgery schedule more restrictive than if they owned the laser themselves. Alternatively, physicians on a budget can work with variable access company like Sightpath Medical. This option provides the greatest flexibility as well as the most affordable price. Learn more about how we can bring our mobile femto service (MoFe) to your facility here.