February 2009 Issue
Cataract Options: LASIK Plus Intraocular
Cataracts dim the vision and age ruins your close-in focus. But these two procedures combined can bring back both without objections from the FAA.
As the pilot population ages, one medical condition afflicts everyone and a second afflicts many. Presbyopia—the inability of the eye to accommodate for close-in focus—is a curse of middle age, setting in for most people between the ages of 40 and 50. The second condition—cataracts—afflicts most of the population, but not everyone requires treatment for it. In our October 2008 issue, we covered the leading choices for pilots facing cataract surgery. Generally, the FAA has no problem with cataract surgery, although the procedure must be reported. Longtime reader, eye surgeon and AME Dr. Steven Siepser wrote us recently to note that our October article overlooked some options for pilots facing cataract procedures. "The fourth option for cataract surgery," he writes, "is the use of an accommodating intraocular lens combined with laser vision correction for unencumbered maximum visual performance." Laser vision correction isn’t a treatment for cataracts, but it does reshape and change the focusing power of the cornea, usually resulting in improved vision without glasses. As with cataract surgery, the procedure passes FAA muster, requiring a report to the FAA to explain the outcome. Barring any complications, it has no impact on medical issuance. The most common form of laser correction is laser in-situ keratomileusis or LASIK. The surgeon uses a microkeratome to lift a thin flap of corneal tissue, then an excimer laser is used to reshape the underlying corneal tissue. Cataract patients can also be candidates for laser correction, according to Siepser.
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