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  • What Is a Posterior Capsulotomy?

    Reviewed By J Kevin McKinney, MD
    Sep. 08, 2022

    Posterior capsulotomy (or YAG laser capsulotomy) is laser surgery you might need sometime after cataract surgery. It helps you see clearly if your vision becomes cloudy again.

    When you have cataract surgery, your ophthalmologist removes your eye's cloudy lens. They replace it with a clear, artificial intraocular lens (IOL). The IOL is held in place in the eye’s natural lens capsule. Weeks, months or years later, this capsule can become cloudy or wrinkled, causing blurry vision. This is called a posterior capsule opacification (PCO). It’s also sometimes called a "secondary cataract" or "scar tissue." With posterior capsulotomy, a laser is used to make an opening in the cloudy capsule. This allows light to pass through again for clear vision.

    What Happens During Posterior Capsulotomy?

    The procedure is done in your ophthalmologist's office or an outpatient surgery center. It only takes about 5 minutes. Here is what will happen:

    • Your eye will be numbed with eye drops. You may be given other eye drops as well to dilate your pupil.
    • Your ophthalmologist will point a special laser at the back of the lens capsule and make a small opening.
    • Once your vision is clear after the procedure, you can usually do all of your normal daily activities. But you may need to have someone drive you home. Your ophthalmologist will tell you if there are things you should not do right after surgery.
    • You may need to use eye-drop medicine for a few days after the surgery. Your ophthalmologist will let you know if this is necessary.
    • If you have no other eye problems affecting your vision, your sight should improve in about 24 hours.

    What Are the Risks of Posterior Capsulotomy?

    As with any surgery, there are possible risks and complications with posterior capsulotomy. Here are some of them:

    • You may have a detached retina (where the tissue lifts from the back of your eye). You may see what looks like a gray curtain moving across your field of vision. You might also see a lot of floaters or flashes of light. You should call your ophthalmologist immediately if this happens to your vision.
    • The pressure in your eye may increase.
    • The IOL might move through the posterior capsule opening.
    • You may have swelling in your eye, and you may need steroid eye drops.