Cataract surgery, which involves removing the eye’s clouded lens (the cataract) and replacing it with a clear artificial lens (known as an intraocular lens or IOL), is one of the most frequently performed surgical procedures worldwide. This technique is also used as an alternative to laser vision correction surgery. When performed in people who do not have cataracts, this procedure is called refractive lens exchange, clear lens exchange or lens replacement surgery.
Ophthalmologists at Vision Eye Institute’s Melbourne clinics are highly experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of cataracts. They offer both traditional (manual) cataract extraction and laser cataract surgery. Additionally, our Melbourne doctors have access to the latest lens replacement technology. Some IOLs can reduce or eliminate the need to wear glasses or contact lenses, but this will depend on your specific situation.
Our eye doctors recommend cataract treatment plans that meet individual visual needs, beginning with a consultation to assess if cataract extraction is required. If cataract removal or lens replacement surgery is indicated, our Melbourne ophthalmologists and clinics also provide post-cataract surgery aftercare to support patient recovery.
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Cataract surgery is a common procedure and is considered one of the safest vision correction surgeries performed today. The doctors at our Melbourne clinic have extensive experience diagnosing and treating cataracts.
If you require cataract extraction, our Melbourne surgeons will instruct you on which cataract removal procedure is best suited to your needs – either manual or laser cataract surgery. Overall, both procedures have high success rates and good visual outcomes.
Your surgeon will also discuss your various IOL options and help you select a replacement lens that suits your eye health and lifestyle, to ensure you have the best possible visual outcome.
For more information about cataract and lens surgery, visit our cataract & lens services page.
The cataract operation is performed in one of our accredited Melbourne day surgeries, which are fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The procedure itself requires only 30 minutes, with the patient returning home within several hours of the operation.
Before the surgery, a local anaesthetic will be applied to your eyes (administered via eye drops or a small anaesthetic block around the eye). Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, the surgeon will make a tiny incision (2–3 mm) in the side of the cornea (the surface of the eye), allowing access to the cataract.
Using ultrasound, the cataract surgeon breaks the cloudy lens into smaller pieces. These fragments are then flushed from the capsule encasing the lens, using a vacuum to remove the pieces.
The IOL – the clear artificial replacement lens – is then carefully inserted through the corneal incision and accurately positioned into the lens capsule.
A cataract operation is a one-off procedure. When a lens is replaced, it is not possible to develop another cataract.
The cost of cataract surgery varies depending on several factors, including the health of your eyes, the surgeon’s experience and available technology. Replacement IOLs also have varying costs, with premium lenses costing more than a standard monofocal lens.
Your ophthalmic surgeon can provide you with a detailed quote once you undergo comprehensive eye testing during your consultation (prior to your surgery). Your ophthalmologist will also ask you questions to understand your lifestyle and visual goals and then explain the appropriate lens options for your specific needs.
Medicare and private health insurance cover part of the cost associated with cataract surgery (this will depend on your level of cover and may be subject to waiting periods and excess payments). How much you need to pay out of pocket (the gap payment) depends on several factors, including your level of health coverage and your chosen IOL.
If you are not sure whether your private health insurance covers cataract surgery (and whether there is any excess), we recommend you contact your insurer directly.
During traditional cataract surgery, your doctor manually performs all steps of the procedure. The difference between traditional cataract extraction and laser-assisted cataract surgery is the technology used. Manual cataract surgery uses hand-held instruments to make the corneal incisions and remove the cloudy lens before inserting the artificial IOL.
A femtosecond laser is used during laser cataract surgery to complete several steps that the ophthalmic surgeon would normally perform manually.
Both laser cataract surgery and traditional cataract surgery are highly successful and safe procedures that provide similar visual outcomes. Your surgeon will be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each procedure specific to your situation, to help you decide which surgery to proceed with.
Refractive lens exchange, also referred to as clear lens extraction or lens replacement surgery, is a vision correction technique similar to cataract surgery. This procedure can be performed on patients who do not have cataracts and is used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism.
During this procedure, our Melbourne surgeons remove the natural lens of the eye and replace it with an artificial IOL to correct eyesight.
IOLs replace your eye’s natural lens. The right lens for you will depend on your personal goals and your preferences.
If freedom from glasses is a priority, multifocal lenses may be the best option as they have a number of focal points to give clear distance, intermediate and near vision. Some patients also opt to have monovision, where one replacement lens corrects for distance vision and the other corrects for near vision. The brain blends the two images and is often successful at achieving spectacle independence. However, these options can have some visual compromises so they are not suitable for everyone. Modern replacement lenses, known as toric IOLs, can also correct pre-existing astigmatism, which can further optimise the visual outcome for the patient.
Your surgeon will discuss your various options and help you select the lens that is best suited to your needs.
Implantable lenses (sometimes called implantable contact lenses) are tiny, flexible lenses designed to be placed semi-permanently within the eye. Once inserted into the cornea, it unravels and sits in front of the natural crystalline lens to correct vision.
This procedure is reversible – the implantable lens can be removed at a later stage should another lens procedure (such as cataract surgery) be required.
Private cataract surgery in Melbourne does not have a waiting period. In fact, your surgery is scheduled a few weeks after your initial assessment. If you claim your surgery with private health insurance, there may be a waiting period for your claim to be approved.
Melbourne’s public health system has significant wait times for cataract surgery, which can be longer than a year.1,2 In Melbourne’s public health system, you can expect wait times for your initial assessment, surgery on your first eye, and surgery on your second eye. Melbourne’s private health system avoids these wait times. Your surgery is commonly arranged a week or two after your initial appointment. Learn more about the benefits of private cataract surgery.
1. Huang-Lung J, Angell B, Palagyi A et al. The true cost of hidden waiting times for cataract surgery in Australia. Public Health Res Pract 2022 Oct 12;32(3):31342116.
2. Australian Medical Association (AMA). Shining a light on the elective surgery ‘hidden’ waiting list. AMA; 2022. Available at <https://www.ama.com.au/elective-surgery-hidden-waiting-list> [Accessed online 8 November 2023].
Either your optometrist or GP can provide a referral for cataract surgery. If you are concerned about your vision or suspect you need cataract surgery, make an appointment with your optometrist or GP. They will provide you with a referral to an ophthalmologist if appropriate. You must have a referral to receive the Medicare rebate for your cataract appointment and surgery.
Some private health funds offer comprehensive coverage for cataract surgery. Contact a private health insurer directly to find out exactly how much they cover.
There is no specific data available on Melbourne’s cataract surgery success rates compared to national and international rates. The overall success rate of cataract surgery is very high (99%).3 Further to this, at Vision Eye Institute Melbourne clinics, our cataract surgeons are highly experienced and internationally recognised for their expertise.
3. Clark A, Morlet N, Ng JQ et al. Whole population trends in complications of cataract surgery over 22 years in Western Australia. Ophthalmology 2011 Jun;118(6):1055-61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2010.11.001 ↩︎
We appreciate that you may travel from rural or interstate regions or have scheduling challenges. We can book your appointments to minimise any difficulties.
Unfortunately, we do not currently offer financing options for cataract surgery.
Many of our patients, especially those from rural or regional areas, choose to travel interstate to have their cataract surgery at Vision Eye Institute.
If you have a referral letter from your optometrist or GP, Medicare will still rebate part of the cost of interstate cataract surgery. Your private health insurer will also cover some of the cost of interstate cataract surgery – contact your health fund for details.
International patients wishing to have cataract surgery in Melbourne will need to privately fund their surgery.
Our staff can co-ordinate consultation and surgery appointment times to minimise your travel requirements. They can also recommend nearby accommodation. Simply call the clinic you are interested in booking with or request an appointment online, and our team will guide you through the process, answer any questions you may have, and book your appointments. Contact a Vision Eye Institute clinic in Melbourne.
Laser-assisted cataract surgery is available at our Blackburn South, Boronia, Box Hill, Camberwell, Coburg, Footscray and Melbourne clinics. All our Melbourne clinics also offer a wide variety of lens replacement options and are fitted with the latest diagnostic and surgical technologies. Some of these technologies include:
Melbourne ophthalmologists do not offer telehealth for pre- and post-operative cataract surgery care. These appointments require an assessment of your eyes which is not possible virtually. However, those travelling from interstate may be able to have their pre- and post-operative care with a local optometrist in consultation with an ophthalmologist. Contact a Melbourne clinic for details.
Combined, our team of highly skilled and experienced Melbourne ophthalmologists have performed thousands of routine and complex cataract surgery operations. They have access to the latest range of replacement lens options (e.g. trifocal, extended depth of focus, toric) and laser cataract surgery, meaning treatment plans can be tailored for each individual patient.
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Cataract surgery consultations are provided at our fully equipped clinics across Melbourne, VIC. Cataract and lens surgery is performed at one of our state-of-the-art, accredited day surgery facilities, a number of which are conveniently co-located with a Vision Eye Institute clinic.