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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 45-50

Prevention and correction of residual refractive errors after cataract surgery

Department of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Dada Laser Eye Institute, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission17-Aug-2015
Date of Acceptance01-Jul-2016
Date of Web Publication6-Dec-2016

Correspondence Address:
Jeevan S Ladi
Dada Laser Eye Institute, Office No. 202, Gulmohar Apartments, 2nd Floor, East Street, Camp, Pune - 411 001, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2320-3897.195311

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Cataract surgery today has become more of a refractive surgery with high patient expectations and demand for independence from glasses. With advances in biometry, precise intraocular lens (IOL) power calculation is the most important step in achieving desired target refraction. Noncontact optical biometry has become the gold standard worldwide with a few exceptions where contact ultrasound biometry still needs to be performed. Although there is no single formula for IOL power calculation suitable for all eyes, our understanding of which formulae to use in specific situations is much better. Despite advances in biometry and cataract surgery techniques, unsatisfactory visual and refractive outcomes occur occasionally. Enhancement after cataract surgery is required in these cases. The common methods to treat such cases are corneal-based laser refractive surgery or lens-based procedures such as piggyback IOL and lens exchange.

Keywords: Biometry, intraocular lens exchange, laser in situ keratomileusis, piggyback intraocular lens

How to cite this article:
Ladi JS. Prevention and correction of residual refractive errors after cataract surgery. J Clin Ophthalmol Res 2017;5:45-50

How to cite this URL:
Ladi JS. Prevention and correction of residual refractive errors after cataract surgery. J Clin Ophthalmol Res [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Jun 8];5:45-50. Available from: https://www.jcor.in/text.asp?2017/5/1/45/195311

Modern cataract surgery is characterized by obtaining precise postoperative target refraction as the number of patients opting for premium intraocular lenses (IOLs) is growing and patient expectations to get independence from glasses are very high. It may be not out of place to state that cataract surgery has become more of refractive surgery.

  Biometry Top

Precise IOL power calculation is the most important step in achieving desired target refraction. Biometry is the process of measuring the power of cornea (keratometry) and the length of the eye and using this data to determine the ideal IOL power. [1],[2]

Contact ultrasound biometry: A (amplitude) mode contact ultrasound biometry has been the gold standard for many decades. It is of 2 types - Contact applanation and immersion.

Contact type requires a probe placed perpendicularly on the cornea, ideally in the sitting position. Errors are possible due to the excess indentation of the cornea (compression of 0.5 mm can cause error of −1.25D.). Off-axis measurement, if the probe is not perpendicular also causes errors (0.5 mm off axis gives +1.25 D error). The risk of transmission of infections between patients is there with contact method.

Steps for accurate measurement of axial length using applanation [3]

  • Machine should be calibrated and set for the correct velocity setting or mode (phakic cataract, aphakic or pseudophakic)
  • Echoes from the cornea, anterior lens surface, posterior lens surface, and retina should be present and of good amplitude. 5 th spike is from the sclera (misalignment along the optic nerve is recognized by an absent scleral spike)
  • Set the gain at the lowest level at which a good reading is obtained
  • Avoid excess corneal compression
  • Average the 10 most consistent readings giving the lowest standard deviation (<0.06 mm)
  • Always measure both eyes and repeat if axial length difference between two eyes is >0.3 mm or if consecutive measurements differ by more than 0.2 mm
  • Be extra careful in short eyes (<22 mm) and long eyes (>25 mm). Axial length errors get amplified in short eyes, and posterior staphyloma may be present in a long eye
  • Higher gain setting needed for dense cataracts
  • Posterior staphyloma in myopic eyes causes an elongated globe and macula may be on the slope of the staphyloma. The axial length may get measured longer leading to postoperative hyperopia. In these cases, vitreous depth is taken from the B-Scan and added to anterior chamber depth (ACD) and lens thickness.

Immersion biometry involves placing a scleral shell (Prager) filled with saline between the probe and the eye. Corneal indentation is avoided as no pressure is applied on the eye.

Noncontact optical biometry: Accurate assessment of axial length by contact-free optical biometry has become popular and is now the current gold standard due to ease of use, accuracy, and reproducibility.

The IOL Master (Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, Jena, Germany) was introduced in 1999 and is based on laser partial coherence interferometry (PCI). It uses a 780 nm laser diode infrared light to measure axial length. The anterior corneal curvature is calculated at 6 reference points in a hexagonal pattern at the 2.3 mm optical zone. [4]

A novel biometry device the Lenstar LS 900 (Haag-Streit AG, Bern, Switzerland) was introduced in 2008. It is based on the low-coherence optical reflectometry and uses an 820 nm superluminescent diode. It can also measure the crystalline lens thickness, retinal thickness, central corneal thickness (CCT), pupil size, and pupil centricity. K readings are calculated by analyzing the anterior corneal curvature at 32 reference points oriented in two circles at 2.3 and 1.65 mm optical zones.

Differences between IOL Master and lenstar [1]

  • ACD: Lenstar measures ACD from corneal endothelium to anterior lens surface while IOL Master measures it from corneal epithelium to anterior lens surface
  • Lenstar measures more parameters such as CCT, retinal thickness, and pupil size/centricity
  • Lenstar takes twice as much time as IOL Master for measurements.

No statistically significant difference was found in axial length measurements between the two devices. [1]

Advantages of optical biometry devices:

  • Operator independent as it is noncontact
  • No risk of transmission of infections between patients
  • Rapid and ease of use.

Optical and immersion biometry (± 0.02 mm) is five times more accurate than applanation contact A-scan (± 0.1 mm).

Disadvantages of optical biometry devices: Axial length measurements are not possible in mature or dense subcapsular cataracts as the laser beam gets blocked by a dense cataract. In these cases, contact or immersion A-scan biometry has to be used.

Corneal refractive power: Keratometry can be performed by manual or automated methods. The error of 0.5D in corneal refractive power leads to an error of 0.5D in postoperative refraction.

Manual keratometry is still practiced at a few places. To ensure good results [3]

  • Use single dedicated and calibrated instrument
  • Adjust the eyepiece and bring central cross hairs into focus
  • Take an average of 3 readings including the axes
  • If K readings are <40 or >48, or if difference between the 2 eyes is >1.5D, repeat the readings by another observer
  • In a scarred cornea use readings of the fellow eye.

Manual keratometry measures corneal power using 4 points 3.2 mm from the corneal center. Power is thus derived from the paracentral area while true corneal power is in the central 1-1.5 mm.

Automated keratometry measures central 4-6 points 2.6 mm from the center of the cornea.

Topography measures entire cornea (>5000 points) and can pick up irregular astigmatism.

  Intraocular Lens Power Calculation and Formulae Top

There is no single formula which is suitable for all eyes. [1] The third-generation formulas such as Hoffer Q, Holladay 1, and SRK/T formulae are commonly used. SRK I and II regression formulae are obsolete [Table 1].
Table 1: Which formulae to use

Click here to view

ACD: Modern formulas for IOL power calculation depend on the AC depth measurement to increase the accuracy of IOL power prediction curve. All modern biometry optical devices such as IOL Master and Lenstar, Slit scanning Videokeratography (Orbscan), Scheimpflug imaging (Pentacam and Galilei), and anterior segment optical coherence tomogram are capable of accurately measuring ACD. The ACD measuring module of IOL Master should not be used to determine ACD in a pseudophakic eye as the evaluation software is only designed for phakic eyes.

A constant: Depends on IOL position, diameter, design, angulation, convexity, and manufacturer. It is considered as a fudge factor that adjusts IOL predictions for systematic errors arising from the clinical environment, biometry measurement devices, patient population, and surgical technique. The estimated IOL constants published by manufacturers is typically intended for use with contact ultrasound biometry, though recently constants related to optical biometry are also being increasingly provided.

Common causes of mistakes in biometry [3]

  • Biometry performed in a hurry or delegated to untrained staff and not cross-checked by the surgeon
  • Wrong selection of formula or A constant
  • Wrong entry of K readings while typing.

Refractive needs of the patient: Emmetropia will be the goal for most patients. Some patients may be intentionally left myopic postoperative to aid reading. Anisometropia more than three-dimensional may cause diplopia. Monovision with a difference of more than −1.50 D between the two eyes may lead to disphotopsia such as glare, haloes, etc. Patients may not tolerate these leading to unhappiness about the outcome.

Common causes or errors in achieving target refraction: The Royal College of Ophthalmologist guidelines highlights the need for achieving postoperative target refraction of ± 1D in 90% cases and ± 0.5 D in 60% patients [2] [Table 2].
Table 2: Errors in postoperative refraction

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Errors which can be avoided to achieve these targets are: [3]

  • Biometry printout attached to wrong patients notes
  • Incorrectly labeled IOL
  • Wrong eye or wrong patient in theater
  • Reversed IOL optic
  • Not discussing target refraction with the patient
  • Not taking account of the other eye
  • Using other eye K readings or axial length in unilateral high myopes/hyperopes or anisometropes
  • Inadvertent placement in sulcus instead of "in the bag."

Biometry in silicone oil-filled eyes: [5] Patients who have undergone vitrectomy with silicone oil surgery for retinal detachment often develop cataracts. Cataract removal with IOL implantation and oil removal can be done at the same time for visual improvement. Biometry in silicone oil-filled eyes is difficult to perform due to sound attenuation property of oil and readings may be unobtainable. Conventional ultrasound biometry with immersion technique is prone to errors such as a false longer eye due to slow sound speed, poor penetration from sound absorption by oil, and multiple fluid interfaces causing errors in measurement. Optical biometry with the IOL Master overcomes these hurdles as it is based on laser PCI and axial length can be measured based on the reflection of interference signal from the retinal pigment epithelium.

Velocity conversion: Standard A-scan contact biometry can be used to calculate axial length.

Axial length = (980/1532 × AL of vitreous) + AC depth + lens thickness

Pediatric cataract: Current IOL power calculation formulas are accurate in adults but not in children. High prediction errors are encountered in shorter eyes with all currently available formulas. Careful preoperative measurements reduce errors. Immersion A-scan biometry is superior in measuring axial length in children. [6],[7]

At <1 year age, ignore keratometry readings, use standard K reading of 44D [Table 3] and [Table 4].
Table 3: Calculation based on axial length

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Table 4: Age correction

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[TAG:2]Intraocular Lens Power Calculation after Refractive Surgery [1],[8][/TAG:2]

In the normal human cornea, the center is steep while there is peripheral flattening. After refractive surgery such as laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) or photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), the center becomes flat and peripheral steepening is seen.

The most accurate method to calculate IOL power after refractive surgery is a combination of clinical history and contact lens method. The data required for this is preoperative keratometry and refraction, postoperative refraction, and there should be no lenticular myopia.

If history is not available and refraction is not possible due to a dense cataract, the following formulae can be used.

  • Shammas equation
    K = 1.14× (current average K) − 6.8
  • Maloney method
    K = 1.1× (current average K) − 6.1
  • Topography method
    K = 1.114× (current average sim K) − 6.1

  Postphotorefractive Keratectomy/Laser in situ Keratomileusis Nomograms Top

Feiz nomogram for myopia: Myopia reduced in D, manual/Auto K, and SRK/T.

Feiz nomogram for hyperopia

  Estimation of Corneal Refractive Power after Radial Keratotomy Top

Pearls for post-RK IOL power calculation:

  • Corneal thickness unchanged
  • Central flattening and peripheral steepening seen after RK
  • Autokeratoetry preferred
  • Use 3 rd generation formula like SRK/T
  • Target refraction is −1.5D myopia
  • The frequency of hyperopia reduced by 60%.

  Intraocular Lens Power Calculation Postradial Keratotomy Top

  • Calculate IOL power by contact A-scan biometry
  • Add + 1.5D for 4-6 incision RK
  • Add + 2 D for 8 incision RK
  • Add + 2.5D for >8 incision RK.

  Treatment of Residual Refractive Error after Cataract Surgery Top

Modern lens removal techniques and advanced preoperative diagnostic methods allow most cataract patients to be spectacle-independent for distance and sometimes also for near. Refractive considerations are integrated into modern cataract surgery and these days; patients expect an adequately predicted refractive outcome. Despite such advances in cataract surgery, unsatisfactory refractive and visual outcomes occasionally occur and in these cases, the enhancement after cataract surgery is required to achieve the best final visual outcome.

Emmetropia is our main target today in modern cataract surgery. Accurate biometric analysis, selection and calculation of the adequate IOL, and modern techniques for cataract surgery all help surgeons to move toward the goal of cataract surgery as a refractive procedure free from refractive error. However, in spite of all these inputs, residual refractive error still occasionally occurs after cataract surgery. The causes for these can be divided into preoperative, operative, and postoperative.

Preoperative causes

  • Incorrect estimation of postoperative IOL position and faulty measurement of preoperative axial length
  • Inadequate selection of IOL power. There are limitations of calculation formula, especially in extreme ametropia. Potential error in estimation of postoperative ACD by current IOL power formula
  • Lack of precision in IOL manufacturing
  • Preoperative corneal astigmatism (which occurs in up to one-third of cataract cases) may lead to residual refractive errors
  • Previous LASIK or PRK done for myopia may lead to undesirable hyperopia postcataract surgery due to an error in calculating corneal power and effective lens position.

  Operative Causes Top

  • Surgical variation in size and central position of capsulorrhexis
  • Surgically induced astigmatism
  • Residual astigmatism after toric IOL implantation may occur due to the effect of spherical power and ACD in toric IOL calculation, the effect of posterior corneal astigmatism, and effect of large pupil size.

  Postoperative Causes Top

Anterior movement of IOL may occur postoperatively due to capsular bag fibrosis and contraction.

  Prevention of Residual Refractive Error after Cataract Surgery Top

Surgically induced Astigmatism: To prevent this - microincision cataract surgery using corneal topography data and standard formulas for calculation of IOL power gives stable refractive results. Preoperative study of corneal hysteresis and biomechanical properties of cornea will predict better the postoperative outcome. [12]

Preoperative corneal astigmatism can be corrected by the placement of incision on the steeper axis, peripheral corneal relaxing incisions, and use of toric IOL. [13]

Patients who have undergone previous corneal refractive procedure such as LASIK or PRK - the surgeon should rely more on nonhistory methods. For postmyopic excimer laser refractive surgery patients, the Holladay 2 flat K method has been found to give the most accurate IOL power. [8]

Patients who undergo bilateral sequential cataract surgery: The surgeon can study if refractive error in the first eye exceeds 0.5D - if so refractive error in the second eye can be improved by modifying the IOL power. [14]

Options for the treatment of small residual refractive error include glasses and contact lenses. However, refractive surprise after cataract surgery involving large errors in spherical or cylindrical power is an unpleasant and frustrating situation for both the surgeon and the patient. The methods to treat these situations are either corneal-based laser refractive surgery or lens-based procedures, namely, Piggyback IOL and IOL exchange. Rotation of toric IOL may be needed for residual cylinder postoperatively.

Indications and advantages of lens-based procedures (piggyback IOL and IOL exchange)

  • Correction of large residual refractive spherical errors
  • Lens-based procedures do not change the corneal refractive power as they do not alter the corneal surface
  • The original cataract wound can be reopened and used to implant the IOL soon after initial surgery
  • Useful for surgeons who do not have an excimer laser in their setup.

If the IOL to be removed is foldable, it can be removed after cutting it through 2.8-3 mm incision. [15]

It is preferable to do IOL exchange early within 2 weeks before the capsular bag has fibrosed.

Piggyback technique involves the implantation of the second IOL in the posterior chamber (sulcus), over the first IOL (in the bag). It is an easier procedure than IOL exchange, especially if the capsular bag has fibrosed as the risks associated with explantation - namely, capsular rupture, vitreous loss, zonular dialysis, macular edema, and retinal tears are avoided. [16]

Apart from the ease of technique with piggyback IOL, reversibility is feasible (the IOL can be easily removed if correction is not accurate). Due to its peculiar design of large optic size and rounded anterior optic edge, side effects such as optic capture, glare, and iris trauma are reduced.

Sulcoflex (Rayner, UK): IOL Powers available from −10 to +10D.

An alternate option is a three piece hydrophobic acylic IOL in sulcus.

Sulcoflex piggyback multifocal IOLs are also available for a hyperopic or myopic surprise from −3 to +3D. Pseudophakic emmetropic patients with monofocal IOL can also get their presbyopia corrected with sulcoflex multifocal piggyback IOL. Sulcoflex toric and toric multifocal are also available for the correction of associated astigmatism.

One of the simplest formulas to calculate for piggyback IOL is:

Postoperative myopia = spherical equivalent (sphere + half cylinder)

Postoperative hyperopia = spherical equivalent × 1.5

Complications: Interface membrane can develop between the two IOLs. Treatment involves a surgical wash or yttrium-aluminum-garnet (YAG).

Lens exchange to correct residual astigmatism by exchanging a monofocal IOL with a toric IOL is not a good option due to surgically induced astigmatism caused by wound enlargement while explanting the original IOL.

El Awady and Ghanem have found piggyback IOL to be preferable to IOL exchange for treatment of residual refractive error after cataract surgery as it is easier, well tolerated, reversible and accurate. [17]

  Corneal-Based Laser Refractive Surgery Top

Advantages [16]

  • Avoids additional intraocular surgical procedures
  • Better accuracy and higher predictability of results than piggyback IOL or IOL exchange, especially for the correction of residual cylinders
  • Provides greater flexibility and achieves better final refraction than lens-based procedures. A recent study using LASIK to correct residual refractive error after cataract surgery found 92.85% eyes achieved a final spherical equivalent within ± 0.5D and 100% eyes within ± 1D
  • LASIK is easier in eyes with previous YAG capsulotomy done; where lens exchange is risky and difficult.

Limitations of laser in situ keratomileusis

  • Correction of high residual refractive errors will depend on corneal thickness
  • Availability of excimer laser with the cataract surgeon
  • Higher cost.

  Conclusions Top

LASIK is the most accurate procedure to correct residual refractive error after cataract surgery. Lens-based procedures, such as IOL exchange or piggyback lens implantation, are also possible alternatives in cases with extreme ametropia, corneal abnormalities, or in situations where excimer laser is not available. Piggyback IOL is a safer and more accurate method than IOL exchange. [17],[18],[19]

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Sahin A, Hamrah P. Clinically relevant biometry. Curr Opin Ophthalmol 2012;23:47-53.  Back to cited text no. 1
Sheard R. Optimising biometry for best outcomes in cataract surgery. Eye (Lond) 2014;28:118-25.  Back to cited text no. 2
Astbury N, Ramamurthy B. How to avoid mistakes in biometry. Community Eye Health 2006;19:70-1.  Back to cited text no. 3
Rajan MS, Keilhorn I, Bell JA. Partial coherence laser interferometry vs conventional ultrasound biometry in intraocular lens power calculations. Eye (Lond) 2002;16:552-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Kunavisarut P, Poopattanakul P, Intarated C, Pathanapitoon K. Accuracy and reliability of IOL master and A-scan immersion biometry in silicone oil-filled eyes. Eye (Lond) 2012;26:1344-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
O'Hara MA. Pediatric intraocular lens power calculations. Curr Opin Ophthalmol 2012;23:388-93.  Back to cited text no. 6
Eibschitz-Tsimhoni M, Archer SM, Del Monte MA. Intraocular lens power calculation in children. Surv Ophthalmol 2007;52:474-82.  Back to cited text no. 7
Yang R, Yeh A, George MR, Rahman M, Boerman H, Wang M. Comparison of intraocular lens power calculation methods after myopic laser refractive surgery without previous refractive surgery data. J Cataract Refract Surg 2013;39:1327-35.  Back to cited text no. 8
Feiz V, Moshirfar M, Mannis MJ, Reilly CD, Garcia-Ferrer F, Caspar JJ, et al. Nomogram-based intraocular lens power adjustment after myopic photorefractive keratectomy and LASIK: A new approach. Ophthalmology 2005;112:1381-7.  Back to cited text no. 9
Awwad ST, Dwarakanathan S, Bowman RW, Cavanagh HD, Verity SM, Mootha VV, et al. Intraocular lens power calculation after radial keratotomy: Estimating the refractive corneal power. J Cataract Refract Surg 2007;33:1045-50.  Back to cited text no. 10
Chen L, Mannis MJ, Salz JJ, Garcia-Ferrer FJ, Ge J. Analysis of intraocular lens power calculation in post-radial keratotomy eyes. J Cataract Refract Surg 2003;29:65-70.  Back to cited text no. 11
Denoyer A, Ricaud X, Van Went C, Labbé A, Baudouin C. Influence of corneal biomechanical properties on surgically induced astigmatism in cataract surgery. J Cataract Refract Surg 2013;39:1204-10.  Back to cited text no. 12
Behndig A, Montan P, Stenevi U, et al. Aiming for emmetropia after cataract surgery: Swedish National Cataract Register study. J Refract Surg 2012;38:1181-6.  Back to cited text no. 13
Jivrajka RV, Shammas MC, Shammas HJ. Improving the second-eye refractive error in patients undergoing bilateral sequential cataract surgery. Ophthalmology 2012;119:1097-101.  Back to cited text no. 14
Jones JJ, Jones YJ, Jin GJ. Indications and outcomes of intraocular lens exchange during a recent 5-year period. Am J Ophthalmol 2014;157:154-162.e1.  Back to cited text no. 15
Fernández-Buenaga R, Alió JL, Pérez Ardoy AL, Quesada AL, Pinilla-Cortés L, Barraquer RI. Resolving refractive error after cataract surgery: IOL exchange, piggyback lens, or LASIK. J Refract Surg 2013;29:676-83.  Back to cited text no. 16
El Awady HE, Ghanem AA. Secondary piggyback implantation versus IOL exchange for symptomatic pseudophakic residual ametropia. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2013;251:1861-6.  Back to cited text no. 17
Alio JL, Abdelghany AA, Fernández-Buenaga R. Enhancements after cataract surgery. Curr Opin Ophthalmol 2015;26:50-5.  Back to cited text no. 18
Alio JL, Abdelghany AA, Fernández-Buenaga R. Management of residual refractive error after cataract surgery. Curr Opin Ophthalmol 2014;25:291-7.  Back to cited text no. 19


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]

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