Mercy Springfield Communities has reached a new milestone by performing laser cataract surgery on its 10,000th patient. The hospital says that makes local doctors the most proficient in laser cataract surgery in the nation.
Dr. Wendell Scott, an ophthalmologist at Mercy, says that “for us, it’s a matter of trying to bring the best technology to all our patients and treat everyone.”
Mercy ophthalmologists began using the Catalys Precision Laser System in March 2013 for all cataract removals. Before this new innovation, doctors had to use blades to cut and remove the cataract from the eye. This new technology first uses a laser system to map the eye, makes a precise cut, and then the doctors is able to position the patient’s new lens accurately.
“What we’ve found is that basically the laser is more precise in certain aspects of the procedure, and actually because of the precision, and because it helps soften the lens which makes it easier to remove with less power…we’ve actually found that it’s safer.”
According to Mercy, its ophthalmologists were not only the first in the country to use this new technology, but they were also the first to offer the surgery with no extra charge. Although Medicare covers the cost of cataract removal for most patients over the age of 65, this isn’t the case for patients who want the more expensive laser removal.
“In essence…typically the facility receives a set amount of money regardless of how the procedure is performed, and in this case really Mercy just absorbs the extra cost of providing the cataract surgery with the laser versus not doing the laser,” Scott said.
As Mercy ophthalmologists got more comfortable with the laser surgery, they even began using laser surgery for pediatric cases. And Scott recently performed the surgery on a 95-year-old.
Debbie Westfall, who developed cataracts at age 60, was Mercy’s 10,000th patient to receive laser surgery. She was able to return to work the next day and says she didn’t have to use her reading glasses.
Scott says Mercy is making great strides in ophthalmology thanks to the new technology. He says they’ve made advancements in retinal surgery, glaucoma and pediatrics thanks to the new laser system, and he says that “we also have new options and better options for reducing astigmatism.”