Refractive Lens Exchange is a procedure for nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and presbyopia.

While LASIK concentrates on correcting the cornea, refractive lens exchange (RLE) replaces the natural lens of your eye with an intraocular lens.

RLE works best for older patients who are hyperopic (farsighted) or myopic (nearsighted) and want to lessen their dependence on glasses or contacts, and avoid ever getting a cataract.

RLE is cataract surgery before a cataract forms. Patients who undergo the procedure will never have to worry about cataracts as they age; the artificial lens placed in the eye will remain clear.

You may be a good candidate for RLE if:

  • your prescription falls outside the accepted range for laser refractive procedures,
  • you have extreme near or farsightedness, or
  • you may otherwise not be an ideal candidate for vision correction procedures.

The Procedure – In Detail

First, the patient’s eye will be numbed with a light, topical or local anesthetic. Next, Dr. Harvey makes a small incision at the edge of the cornea. A special probe is then inserted through the incision to gently break up and suction out the damaged natural lens. Finally, the intraocular lens implant is inserted into place. A bandage contact lens and a clear eye patch will be used to cover and protect the eye until Dr. Harvey feels it is ok to remove.

The entire RLE procedure is completed in about 20 to 25 minutes, and visual recovery is rapid. Because the incision used to insert the IOL is so small, sutures are often not required and post operative discomfort is minimal.

The patient may have somewhat hazy or blurry vision immediately following the surgery and may notice an increased amount of sensitivity to light. The scheduled, post-operative visits with Dr. Harvey will determine if the patient will require any additional follow up care.

The surgery is performed on an outpatient basis so that the patient is able to leave the surgery center the same day. Patients are advised to arrange for someone to drive them to and from surgery.

Three examples of RLEs are the Crystalens®, Tecnis® Multifocal IOL lens and AcrySof® Toric lens.