Why go dropless? Cataract surgery eliminates postoperative eyedrops

Doctors at the Zion Eye Institue perform dropless cataract surgery, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Zion Eye Institute, St. George News

FEATURE For many people suffering from loss of vision due to cataracts, cataract surgery can be a life-changing event, one that gives the patient a new outlook on life.

At the Zion Eye Institute the surgery has become even more beneficial to the patient with the use of a procedure called dropless cataract surgery.

Doctors at the Zion Eye Institue perform dropless cataract surgery, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Zion Eye Institute, St. George News

After a traditional cataract surgery, the patient is generally prescribed post-operative eye drops which are used to prevent harmful infection and inflammation, said Dr. Jason Ahee, owner of the Zion Eye Institute and medical director of the Zion Surgery Center.

“That is what we have been doing as long as I can remember,” Ahee said.

But in recent years, doctors have been researching and using an injectable antibiotic which is delivered at the end of surgery. When administered at the time of cataract surgery, Ahee said, the antibiotic increases safety for the patient’s eyes and decreases the risk of infections, among other benefits.

Doctors at the Zion Eye Institute, along with a pharmacist have developed their own technique and antibiotic compound and have started replacing the after-surgery eye drops with an antibiotic injection. Ahee said:

What it amounts to is, instead of the patients having to go and buy eyedrops to prevent infection after cataract surgery we can actually inject the medicine into the eye at the end of the surgery and then the patient can go home and not have to use any drops at all.

Ahee and the team of physicians at the Zion Eye Institute have been using this procedure for two years and have done between 3,000-4,000 cataract surgeries using the dropless method with great success.

“We haven’t had a single complication from it,” Ahee said. “It’s just been very helpful to us as a practice and also to our patients.”

Ahee is currently working with the FDA and is close to gaining approval of the injection, Ahee said. Ahee added that there are currently no post-operative eye drops that have FDA approval for cataract surgery. Both the injection and eye-drops are “off-label” for cataract surgery currently.

There are two main reasons dropless cataract surgery is so beneficial to the patient, Ahee said.

The first is that dropless cataract surgery saves the patient a lot of money. Prescription eyedrops can be very costly and there are often issues with insurance companies not covering the type of eyedrop that was prescribed.

“A lot of our patients are on fixed incomes and they have trouble affording their medications,” Ahee said. “To add on these eyedrops, that can cost upwards of $300-$400, is hard sometimes for patients to afford that.”

With the dropless cataract surgery, there is no additional charge for the injectable antibiotic, Ahee said.

The second is the convenience and safety. For many patients – particularly elderly patients and patients who live alone – administering postoperative eye drops can be physically difficult to manage, Ahee said. Patients with arthritis or neck and back pain often have difficulty managing to administer the drops.

Additionally, some of the schedules for administering the eyedrops can be confusing, resulting in the patient not completing their postoperative care effectively and increasing their risk of infection and eye damage.

Ahee believes in the efficacy of the dropless approach, he said. It works, and it is safer for the patient.

Ahee has written a paper on his research and development with the dropless cataract procedure that was accepted for presentation at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting. He will be presenting a poster of his published work at the upcoming conference for the academy.

“Now that we’ve made the transition to dropless, everything is better,” Ahee said. “Our patients are happier, our doctors are happier and our staff is happier.”

About Zion Eye Institute

Since 1979, the Zion Eye Institute has proudly served the people of southern Utah and the surrounding area with a tradition of quality service and friendly staff. Its state-of-the-art facility is Southern Utah’s largest and most comprehensive eye surgery center, offering the latest technology and equipment to serve all of a family’s eye care needs under one roof.

Built on the foundation of patient convenience and satisfaction, the Zion Eye Institute provides everything from routine childhood vision screenings to the most advanced diagnostic and surgical procedures for seniors.

The Zion Eye Institute facility includes a modern, in-house operating suite, complete with a separate preoperative waiting area and postoperative recovery room. Its knowledgeable and courteous staff will make a patient’s experience enjoyable, and the institute’s staff takes pride in seeing patients in a timely manner. Expert doctors and affiliated specialists will take the time to answer a patient’s questions, explain treatment options and provide the highest quality medical or surgical treatment available.

The Zion Eye Institute has four locations to serve patients in Southern Utah and Nevada. In addition to its main office in St. George, Zion Eye Institute is located in Santa Clara, Cedar City and Mesquite, Nevada. More information about Zion Eye Institute can be found on its website.

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