I’d like to share with you a somewhat open secret in ophthalmology; there aren’t very many bad cataract surgeons. What good news to be able to tell you that! Oh, it feels like I’ve got a weight off my chest to let it out that almost all cataract surgeons are competent and able to safely remove a cataract and replace it with an intra-ocular lens. It’s not as if it was a purposefully hidden secret, but it is rarely just spoken (or written) out loud and freely. No matter where you live in America, you are within driving distance of a fully competent cataract surgeon!
So that’s the good news and, for many people, the most important tidbit about finding a cataract surgeon. There are more details in what you should look for in a cataract surgeon if you have specific needs or desires for your vision after the cataract surgery. I want to be clear, the “visual wishlist” you have for your post-surgical results doesn’t have to include the ability to see as clearly as possible with a new pair of glasses. That’s the baseline, lowest common denominator of successful, competent cataract surgery. It should be a given.
The desires for your vision after cataract surgery beyond that have to do with how well you see without glasses. If you want to have clear vision for reading and for driving, without needing glasses for either, then your surgeon search must go deeper. Truthfully, a more in-depth search is a good idea even if your only goal is to be glasses-free only for distance vision, and wearing readers for near vision. It’s not that most cataract surgeons can’t hit that target (glasses-free distance vision). No, the search must go deeper if that’s your goal because there is a big difference between hitting that target 50%, 70%, or 99% of the time.
To obtain the highest chance possible of glasses-free results (included in that would be distance and near vision), there must be a refractive surgery component to the cataract surgery. It means your cataract surgeon should have a specific plan to get you glasses free if it is possible to do so. Beyond just taking out the cataract and placing an IOL, there are diagnostics (testing both before and during the surgery) and techniques (special types of intra-ocular lenses, lasers to perform parts of the surgery, astigmatism correction, etc.) required for refractive surgery level results.
The good news here is that it shouldn’t be terribly hard to find a cataract surgeon that offers these services. There are fewer refractive (glasses-free result) cataract surgeons than general cataract surgeons, but they can still be found in almost every major city. Once you’ve found a cataract surgeon that feels confident about getting you the result you want, all that’s necessary is for you to feel comfortable.
Feeling comfortable with your surgeon is the final item on the list of what to look for. It isn’t the least important, though. The idea that your surgeon’s bedside manner doesn’t matter if they’re a good surgeon may be true for some surgeries. It isn’t true for this one. There is so much nuance to vision and visual recovery after surgery that it is essential to have a guide through the process. If you wonder if your surgeon cares, or who you’ll see or call if you have a concern, that’s an issue. It can turn an otherwise painless process into a significant challenge.
There are cataract surgeons who can help you get the right results for your vision in the right way. Competent cataract surgeons are ubiquitous and can get you the result you need. Refractive cataract surgeons involve slightly more searching, but the search is worth it to get the result you want.