Benefits of Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery vs. Traditional Cataract Surgery

Sep 17, 2023
 – Besser Eye Care Team
  • Cataracts

Make a more informed decision for clear vision. Learn the differences between laser cataract surgery vs. traditional surgery.

Cataract surgery is a popular treatment option to remove visually disruptive cataracts. A cataract occurs when the eye’s natural lens clouds up, leading to blurry vision that makes every day activities more difficult.

Cataract surgery has evolved significantly since its inception. Recently, laser assisted cataract surgery has become a popular treatment option for cataracts.

Laser assisted surgery differs from traditional cataract surgery in both the way it's performed, its costs, and the expected outcome. Patients should understand the differences between laser cataract surgery vs. traditional surgery to make an informed choice that suits their eye care needs.

What is traditional cataract surgery

Traditional (or phacoemulsification) surgery is the most widely performed cataract surgery. During the procedure, an ophthalmologist replaces a patient's clouded lens with a new artificial lens. Patient’s can think of it like implanting a contact lens into their eye to improve their vision.

In traditional cataract surgery the eye doctor uses a blade or scalpel to make a small incision in the front of the eye. They then make a circular cut in the lens and use ultrasound waves to break up the cataract and insert a new artificial lens.

Related: Cataract Surgery: Choosing a Premium Lens (IOL)

What is laser cataract surgery

Laser-assisted cataract surgery is a newer, more precise way to remove cataracts. During laser surgery the doctor uses a laser to make fine-cuts in the cornea to access and remove the clouded lens.

Prior to the procedure the surgeon will create a 3D map of the eye. This map shows exactly where the lasers used in surgery will make their incisions.

During the procedure itself the doctor uses lasers to make the initial incision in the eye, open the lens, and break up the cataract. This laser assisted procedure allows the doctor to make more precise incisions than they could do by hand.

The surgical facility where we perform surgery carries all of the current brand name lasers that are presently in the market. These include the Catalys® femtosecond laser, LenSx®, and LensAR®.

Benefits of traditional cataract surgery vs. laser surgery

While some specialists consider traditional (or phacoemulsification) cataract surgery less advanced than laser-assisted surgery, it has a number of key benefits patients may enjoy.

Reduced cost

Cost is an important consideration in the debate between laser cataract surgery vs. traditional surgery. Traditional cataract surgery provides a more cost-effective treatment option than laser assisted surgery. Traditional surgery, with monofocal lenses, is covered by medicare and most insurance companies. Those without insurance typically pay $3,000 to $5,000 per eye.

For laser assisted cataract surgery, insurance may pay for part of the procedure, but patients will typically pay for some of the surgery out of pocket. The costs for those without insurance is significantly higher - ranging between $3,500 to $7,000 per eye.

Convenience and less complications

Convenience also plays a part when deciding between laser vs. traditional cataract surgery. In cases where patients don’t need some of the benefits of laser surgery, such as correction for astigmatism or premium lenses, they may prefer the simpler traditional cataract surgery.

Additionally, some clinics may not have the technology used in laser-assisted cataract surgery. In these cases traditional cataract surgery may be more accessible for patients.

Benefits of laser cataract surgery vs. traditional surgery

Laser-assisted cataract surgery is a more advanced procedure with numerous benefits patients can enjoy.


When deciding between laser vs. traditional cataract surgery, experts consider laser surgery the more precise option. The advanced technology used in laser-assisted cataract surgery allows doctors to make more precise incisions.

Surgeons can use 3D mapping and imagining to develop a more complete view of the patient's eye. This allows them to make more accurate incisions and enables them to better position artificial lenses in the eye.

Reduces astigmatism

In laser assisted cataract surgery doctors can reshape patients corneas more precisely to reduce astigmatism (an irregularly shaped cornea).

Laser surgery also allows patients to select Toric lens implants which correct for astigmatism. Both these options can make laser-assisted surgery a more appealing choice for patients with astigmatism.

Smoother recovery

Laser assisted surgery requires less ultrasound to break up the cataract. This can lead to a reduced risk of complications like: endothelial cell loss, cystoid macular edema, and postoperative inflammation.

Patients with hard cataracts may also benefit from laser-assisted surgery as the laser used in the procedure can soften cataracts before they are broken apart.

Laser vs traditional cataract surgery benefits

Reduced dependence on glasses

Both the precise nature of laser-assisted surgery and the variety of corrective lenses available can reduce patients' reliance on glasses.

For instance, multifocal lenses can correct for near and far vision, and toric lenses can correct for astigmatism. Both of which will reduce the need for glasses and contacts.

Which surgery is right for me?

The decision between laser cataract surgery vs. traditional surgery ultimately comes down to the unique eye care needs and preferences of each patient.

Patients looking for a simple, low-cost, and widely-available procedure may be more inclined to choose traditional cataract surgery.

However, patients looking for a more advanced option may opt for laser-assisted surgery. This is especially true for those looking to correct visual problems like astigmatism and who don’t mind paying a little more out of pocket.


If you’re in the Los Angeles area and would like to learn more about the benefits of laser cataract surgery vs. traditional surgery, please contact Dr. Besser's office for a consultation.

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