Implantable collamer lenses (ICL)

Also known as "implantable contact lenses", the EVO Visian ICL (STAAR Surgical) is an excellent option for vision correction with highly accurate outcomes and rapid visual recovery.

The procedure involves implanting a specially designed artificial lens behind your iris and in front of the natural lens inside your eye. In theory, this can correct any amount of short-sightedness, long-sightedness and regular astigmatism.

ICLs are particularly useful if you have a spectacle prescription that is too high, or if your cornea is not sufficiently robust, for laser vision correction. Some surgeons use ICLs as their first-line approach to vision correction surgery.

ICL surgery usually takes around 10-15 minutes per eye and is performed under local anaesthetic, with or without light sedation according to your preference. Most patients elect to have both eyes treated on the same day, although this is not essential. Your eye(s) will be checked approximately one hour after surgery, and after this you will be able to go home. Eyedrops and sometimes tablets are required afterwards to reduce any pressure or inflammation inside the eye.

As with all surgery, there are risks and limitations. ICLs are generally considered to carry a higher risk than laser vision correction, as ICL surgery is performed inside the eye instead of on the surface. This is why I tend to reserve ICLs for patients who would not be suitable for laser vision correction. There is a small risk of premature cataract formation, raised pressure inside the eye, and corneal swelling due to damage to its sensitive inner lining. These conditions may require further surgery or treatment, potentially involving the removal of the ICL. There is also a 1 in 1000 risk of an infection causing loss of vision. 

To reduce these risks, your eyes will be thoroughly examined and measured to determine whether ICL surgery may be suitable for you. You will also require annual surveillance after surgery to monitor the health of your corneas and the pressure in your eyes.

For more information, click here to download a useful Patient Information guide produced by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (2017).