INTACS corneal implants are tiny, crescent-shaped prescription devices made of plastic polymer, which are used as an alternative to laser surgery to improve mild myopia. Studies are now being conducted to determine their usefulness for treating hyperopia and astigmatism.
INTACS inserts are surgically implanted in the periphery of the cornea. They are usually not noticeable and require no maintenance, unlike contacts. The effect they have is to flatten the cornea, allowing better focusing and providing clear, sharp vision.
INTACS inserts can be removed and replaced if a prescription changes. Removal of INTACS inserts causes a patient’s eyes to regress to the condition they were in before insertion.
The INTACS Procedure: What You Should Know
Pre-operative procedures for this process include extensive examination of each eye to determine suitability. Your eye doctor will also review your complete medical history. As in all eye surgeries, the eyes are first numbed with anesthetic drops and a speculum is inserted into the eye to prevent blinking.
A small incision is made in the cornea, and a centering guide is placed on the surface. Using the centering guide, two microscopic tunnels are made in the periphery of the cornea and the INTACS inserts are placed.
The opening is then closed up and antibiotic drops may be applied. Improvement in vision should be noticeable immediately, although some patients require a few days. Typically, the procedure lasts only fifteen minutes, but patients are at their appointment for one hour on average.
Am I A Candidate for INTACS?
People are best suited for INTACS inserts if:
- They have in the range of -1.00 and -3.00 diopters with less than 1.00 diopter of astigmatism
- They have healthy eyes with no prior problems
- They are at least twenty-one years old and have had stable vision for at least a year
There may be other factors in your case, so it is best to contact a qualified eye doctor to find out whether you are a candidate.
How Much Does INTACS Cost?
According to the INTACS web site, the cost of INTACS ranges from $1,500 to $2,500 per eye. This includes the implants, doctor fees, after-care patient kit, and all post-operative follow-up visits. Although most vision insurance companies do not cover the costs of this procedure, financing options are usually available.
What Are The Advantages of INTACS?
- Can be removed and replaced with new prescription if needed
- Improvement in vision occurs for most people within the first day
- No tissue removed
- Flexibility for prescription changes
- No maintenance, unlike contacts
- Does not change curvature of cornea
- The patient cannot feel the implants once they are inserted
- 97 percent of people who have INTACS have adequate vision for driving without the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Over 50 percent of people who have INTACS have 20/20 vision or better
What Are The Disadvantages of INTACS?
- Not everyone is a qualified candidate.
- Risks are involved with the actual procedure, but no more than with any other type of eye surgery. Risks include infection, overcorrection, blurry vision, double vision, halos, glare, and fluctuating distance vision.
- Surgery does not work on all patients, and new treatment methods may need to be explored.
- Expensive; usually not covered by vision insurance plans.
A Comparison: INTACS vs Laser Surgery
There are a few important differences between INTACS corneal implants and laser surgery. First, laser surgery reshapes the cornea by permanently removing tissue from the central optic zone.
Although INTACS implants require incisions to be made in the cornea, no tissue is ever removed. Removed tissue can never be replaced, nor does it ever grow back. Another important difference is that as we age our vision continues to change.
With laser surgery, more tissue must be removed to correct one’s vision. With INTACS, the corneal implants are simply removed and new ones put in their place.
Talking to Your Eye Doctor
Here are some questions to ask your eye care professional about INTACS:
- Can you perform the INTACS procedure? If not, can you refer me to a specialist?
- Do you think INTACS is the best option for me, or should I consider other options?
- If the process takes fifteen minutes, why do I need to plan on being here for one hour?
- What complications may arise after the surgery?
- How successful will this procedure be?
- Which diagnostic tests should I expect before and after the surgery?
- Will I need to schedule follow-up visits? How many? When?