Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE)
Timothy B. Cavanaugh, MD
Refractive Lens Exchange is essentially cataract surgery, but exclusively for refractive purposes. Rather then remove the cloudy human lens as is the case in cataract surgery, in RLE, the clear natural lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an intraocular lens implant (IOL) that is usually made of either acrylic or silicone. The replacement IOL corrects most, if not all, of the patient’s myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and even presbyopia (difficulty reading for patients over 40 years old). Multi-Focus IOLs such as the ReSTOR and Crystalens IOLs are the implants of choice for patients wanting the greatest freedom from glasses for a full range of vision. In the past, patients who were not candidates for LASIK, had very few refractive surgery options. Now, RLE may be the best option for people with high refractive error, thin corneas, presbyopia, and/or early cataracts. Because RLE removes the natural lens, there is no possibility of developing a cataract in the future and the replacement artificial lens lasts a lifetime.