Intraocular lens implantation in cases where a cataract has destroyed the natural lens yields "significant visual advantages" and is almost as safe as extraction of the cataract alone, says a panel of ophthalmologists convened by the National Eye Institute to reach a consensus on the procedure.
The technique has been in use for more than 30 years, although it is still classified by the Food and Drug Administration as an experimental method using an "investigational device." However, it has attracted considerable criticism in recent years.
Critics charge, for example, that quality control of lens manufacture is erratic and that the unlimited availability of federal funds for it has turned the procedure into a virtual goldmine for ophthalmologists, eroding safety standards.
Lens implantation is frequently carried out inasmuch as cataract surgery is now the most commonly performed procedure among Medicare beneficiaries and one of every four patients undergoing cataract extraction in