What is Phacoemulsification: Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results

Definition & Overview

Phacoemulsification is a cataract removal surgery that involves taking out the front portion of the eye lens while retaining the posterior capsule. It is a safe, painless procedure followed by the implantation of an artificial lens (IOL) in the affected eye to improve vision.

Eye cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens, leading to considerable vision loss especially among people beyond the age of 40. There are several types of cataract, classified according to the location where it occurs. Clouding at the back portion of the lens is termed subscapular cataract, while the one that forms in the nucleus of the lens is called a nuclear cataract. A cortical cataract, on the other hand, starts at the periphery of the lens and spreads inwards toward the center. To some degree, the formation of cataract is related to aging, though more and more people are afflicted with it due to diseases and other medical conditions.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Patients with cataract are advised to undergo phacoemulsification, especially those who need to maintain good visual acuity for driving, flying, or operating machineries and equipment. The procedure is safe and can be performed on patients of all ages, including infants with congenital cataract and older individuals.

Patients who are at a higher risk of developing cataract can also consider the procedure. These include diabetic, hypertensive, and obese patients as well as those who experienced injury and trauma to the eye that resulted in cloudy or hazy vision.

Phacoemulsification has a high success rate, with patients reporting improved vision and the ability to perceive color and depth more accurately following the procedure. In a large study, 95 out of 100 adult patients were satisfied with the results reporting increased mobility and independence and relief from the fear of going blind. Those who were not happy with the results had other existing eye problems such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.

How is the Procedure Performed?

Prior to the procedure, the patient is subjected to a complete eye exam where the ophthalmologist uses ultrasound or laser scanning device to check the affected eye thoroughly. The tests are meant to determine the best IOL for the patient.

Phacoemulsification is an outpatient procedure that can be performed either under local (adult patients) or general anesthesia (paediatric patients). Using a microscope, the surgeon makes a small incision in the eye, at the side of the cornea. A viscoelastic fluid is then injected to cushion the intraocular tissue and reduce shock. Another incision is made in the membrane surrounding the cataract so it can easily be separated from the cortex using water stream. A titanium needle called a phaco probe is then inserted into the cornea and directed into the central nucleus of the cataract where it is most dense. This device oscillates at great speed to break up the cataract into minute pieces, which are then suctioned by a small hole at the tip of the probe. As the central core of the cataract is emulsified and removed, the probe moves into the peripheral part of the lens and the front part of the lens capsule is removed, as well as some part of the natural lens. A folded intraocular lens is then implanted into the capsule bag using an injector and unfolded in place. This permanent implant replaces the front portion of the natural lens while the remaining back portion of the lens holds the inserted lens in place. The viscoelastic fluid introduced at the start of the procedure is then removed.

Phacoemulsification can also be performed using laser technology. This method involves the use of a specialised machine that makes the incision and softens the cataract so it can be easily removed. The procedure follows the same method as traditional phacoemulsification but since laser technology is used instead of a knife, it offers quicker recovery time and is more accurate.

Depending on the technique used, the incisions may be closed with very small stitches or self-sealing method is performed. Patients with stitches are scheduled for a follow-up for the removal of the said sutures.

The surgery lasts about an hour and can only be performed one eye at the time. Patients with cataracts in both eyes are typically scheduled for cataract removal sessions that are spaced two weeks apart.

Possible Risks and Complications

Based on studies, one in 10 patients develop complications from phacoemulsification and the risk is higher in those who have other eye diseases aside from cataract.

Among the risks and complications that come with the procedure are:

  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia and bleeding
  • Endophthalmitis, or the inflammation of the inner parts of the eyeball
  • Retinal detachment – Following surgery, patients may see dark spots that should disappear after several weeks. If this condition is not resolved, it could be an indication of retinal detachment, a serious complication that could have a lasting effect on the patient’s vision.
  • Itching sensation in the eye
  • Eye discharge
  • Cataract recurrence, with the condition developing from the remaining back portion of the lens capsule
  • Glaucoma – In some rare cases, glaucoma can develop following phacoemulsification, which could lead to total blindness
  • Corneal edema, or the swelling of the clear covering of the eye


  • American Academy of Ophthalmology Cataract and Anterior Segment Panel. Preferred Practice Pattern Guidelines. Cataract in the Adult Eye. Available at: www.aao.org/preferred-practice-pattern/cataract-in-adult-eye-ppp–october-2011. Accessed September 10, 2015.

  • Moorman C. Cataract surgery. In: Spaeth GL. Danensh-Meyer HV, Goldberg I, Kampik A, eds. Ophthalmic Surgery: Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2012:chap 4.

  • Tipperman R. Cataracts. In: Gault JA, Vender JF. Ophthalmology Secrets in Color. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015:chap 21.  


What is Phacoemulsification: ⁣Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results


Phacoemulsification is a highly effective and minimally invasive surgical procedure⁢ used to remove cataracts. This modern technique, also known ‌as “phaco,” has revolutionized⁢ cataract surgery by utilizing ultrasound technology to break up and‍ remove the‌ cloudy⁤ lens, allowing ​for a quick recovery and improved​ vision. In this article, we will ⁢explore⁣ the overview, benefits, and expected results of⁤ phacoemulsification.

Overview of Phacoemulsification

Cataracts are a common eye condition that occurs when the lens of‌ the eye⁣ becomes ⁣cloudy,‍ leading to blurred vision⁤ and difficulty ‍seeing ⁢clearly. ‍Phacoemulsification is a procedure designed to remove‌ cataracts and restore clear vision. During the surgery, a ⁤small incision is made in the eye, and a tiny ultrasound probe is inserted to break up the cloudy lens into ⁤microscopic⁣ particles. These particles are then gently suctioned out of ⁣the eye, leaving the natural lens⁢ capsule ⁣intact.

After the lens is removed, an intraocular lens (IOL) ⁤is ⁢inserted to replace the natural lens.⁢ This artificial lens helps to focus light onto the retina, improving vision‌ and reducing the need for corrective lenses, such as glasses​ or contact lenses. The entire phacoemulsification ‌procedure usually takes⁣ about 15 to 30 minutes per eye, and most patients experience little to no discomfort during the​ surgery.

Benefits of Phacoemulsification

  • Minimally Invasive: Phacoemulsification is considered a minimally⁣ invasive procedure​ as it requires a ​small⁢ incision,⁢ resulting in minimal trauma to the eye. This ​leads to faster ⁢healing and reduced risk of ⁢complications.

  • Quick ‍Recovery: Due to the small incision and advanced surgical techniques,‌ the recovery time​ after phacoemulsification is relatively⁤ quick. Most ‍patients are​ able to resume normal activities within a few days.

  • Improved Vision: Phacoemulsification allows for the removal of ‌cloudy‍ cataracts,⁣ resulting in improved‌ vision quality. Many‌ patients report clearer, brighter, and more‌ vibrant vision after⁤ the procedure.

  • Reduced Dependence‍ on Corrective Lenses: By replacing⁤ the cloudy lens with an artificial intraocular⁣ lens, phacoemulsification can significantly reduce or eliminate the need ​for glasses or contact lenses, allowing patients to enjoy clearer vision without visual aids.

  • Proven Safety and Success: Phacoemulsification has ⁤a high success ‌rate and ‌has been performed on millions of patients ​worldwide. This procedure‌ is well-established and trusted by ⁣eye care​ professionals.

Expected Results of Phacoemulsification

After undergoing phacoemulsification,⁣ patients can expect the following results:

Expected Results Percentage ‌of Patients
Significant improvement in vision 90%
Reduced dependence on glasses/contact lenses 80%
Increased clarity and brightness of vision 85%
Enhanced quality of life 95%

It is important ⁣to note that individual results may vary, and the success of ⁣the procedure depends on various factors, ⁣including‍ the severity‌ of the⁣ cataract and‌ the overall health of the eye. ‌Consulting with an experienced ophthalmologist can provide a​ more accurate assessment ⁢of the expected results.


Phacoemulsification is a modern and⁢ highly effective⁤ surgical ​technique for removing cataracts and‍ improving vision. With⁣ its minimally invasive approach, quick recovery ⁤time, and significant benefits, phacoemulsification‌ has become the preferred ⁣choice for cataract surgery. The ⁤procedure offers⁤ patients ⁢the possibility of​ clearer ​vision, reduced dependence on corrective‍ lenses, and ​an improved quality of life. ⁢If you are experiencing vision problems ⁤due to cataracts, consider discussing phacoemulsification with an eye care professional to⁢ determine if it is the right solution⁣ for you.

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