Artificial lens implant

Understanding Artificial lens implant surgery

Many people with a weakness or deficiency in their eyes are able to adequately improve the quality of their vision through the use of glasses or contact lenses, or by choosing to have laser eye treatment if appropriate.

Glasses, contact lenses and laser eye treatment all have their own specific advantages in helping to correct vision, but they also have their limitations:

  • Glasses can be expensive and may be impractical for certain activities such as contact sports,
  • Contact lenses are often a better choice for an active lifestyle, but not being able to wear them when swimming or sleeping can be challenging,
  • Laser eye surgery can be an inappropriate option for people with a very high eye prescription or a severe case of astigmatism. 

To help correct your vision, you may decide to undergo specialised eye surgery. Surgery to improve your eyesight is known as ‘vision correction’ or ‘refractive surgery’, and there are two main types of lens surgery available; phakic intraocular lens (PIOL) implantation and refractive lens exchange (RLE) surgery.

This page explains PIOL implantation but if you would like to learn about RLE surgery at St Joseph’s Hospital please click here

What is a PIOL implantation?

Phakic intraocular lens implantation is a surgical procedure to correct vision by placing an artificial lens into your eye without removing the natural lens.

(‘Phakic’ is the medical term used to describe an eye that still has its natural lens in.)

PIOL implantation is a more permanent solution to vision correction than the use of contact lenses.

PIOL implantation can be a good option for people who are unsuitable for laser eye treatment.

There are a few different types of lens implant that can be used for a PIOL implantation, and your surgeon will discuss which one is best for you during your consultation.  

Before your surgery, you will be given an anaesthetic eyedrop to numb your eye. This helps to stop you feeling pain during the procedure. If you are feeling nervous, you may also be given an injection of a relaxant into your hand or arm.

Once the anaesthetic has been administered, your surgeon will make a small incision in the surface of your eye.

The artificial lens is then placed through this gap and positioned correctly using a special gel.

As the incision made is extremely small, often no stitches are needed. The surgeon will be looking at your eye through a microscope while performing the procedure.

Your eye will be thoroughly washed with sterile water and antibiotics, to rinse out the gel used for the procedure and to promote healing and reduce the risk of infection.  

PIOL implantation is a short procedure, normally taking 20 minutes or so per eye. You will be able to return home the same day as your surgery and you are able to wash and shower as normal.

While you will usually be able to resume regular non-contact sporting activities shortly after surgery, swimming and contact sports are not recommended until your surgeon says they are okay to do.

Your surgeon will tell you when you can start driving again, and this will normally be a few days after surgery.   

You will be given some eyedrops to administer for a period of time after surgery. It is important you use these as advised by your consultant, as they have antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.

You will have scheduled follow-up appointments to assess your recovery and healing, and these will be explained to you by your consultant at St Joseph’s.

Recovering from a PIOL implantation may take some time, but if you have any queries or concerns at any stage of your recovery, you can contact the ophthalmology team for expert advice.

Any surgical procedure carries risks and the potential for complications, including:

  • Infection,
  • Pain,
  • Reaction to the anaesthetic,
  • Formation of blood clots.

Complications and risks specific to PIOL implantation include:

  • Discomfort in the eye,
  • Disturbances in your vision, although these usually settle down over time,
  • Increased glare from car headlights when driving at night,
  • Red blotches on the white of your eye. These are a common occurrence after any eye surgery and may take up to 6 weeks to clear,
  • You may develop cataracts (cloudy lenses) at a younger age than normal.

The above risks are intended as guidelines only and are not exhaustive.

We always recommend that you talk with your consultant about potential risks and complications before you decide to have any surgery.

The consultant-led ophthalmology team at St Joseph’s Hospital is at the forefront of ophthalmic care in the UK and is highly-experienced in PIOL implantation surgery.

Please contact us today to book your appointment with an eye consultant if you would like to learn more about PIOL implantation.

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