Implantable Contact Lens Surgery

ICL surgery was first performed in 1990, and is based on tried and tested techniques for lens implantation developed in cataract surgery. To date, more than 400,000 ICL procedures have been performed.

During surgery, the flexible ICL is folded and inserted into the eye through a 3mm corneal incision. Specialised instruments are used to unfold the lens and position it correctly between the natural lens and the iris.

The ICL effectively builds your contact lens or spectacle correction into the eye. The ICL is made from a soft gel material, based on natural and artificial collagen. Because the lens is implanted within the eye, no cleaning is required.

Risks of ICL surgery

  • Permanent serious loss of sight = less than 1/1000. Because ICL surgery involves placing an artificial lens inside the eye, there is a risk of introducing infection, which may result in serious loss of sight. Based on figures for cataract surgery, which also involves placing an artificial lens inside the eye, the risk of infection is less than 1/1000. An array of precautions is taken to prevent infection, and we aim to ensure that one eye is recovering without any signs of infection before performing surgery on the other. This is the reason why lens implantation operations, unlike eye surface reshaping operations such as LASIK, are not performed on both eyes on the same day. We normally wait a minimum period of 4 days between ICL operations for the right and left eye.
  • Contact between the natural lens and the ICL may, in some cases, cause the natural lens to become opaque. If it begins to affect vision, the cloudy lens is called a cataract. Recent studies suggest that the chances of developing a cataract within 3 years of ICL surgery are less than 2%. ICL removal can be combined easily with cataract surgery, in which a new artificial lens, equivalent in focusing power to the ICL, is implanted to take the place of the natural lens. Good distance vision is normally maintained.
  • Revision surgery. One of the key advantages of ICL surgery is that the lens is removable. If any signs of an adverse reaction to ICL implantation are observed during follow-up appointments, the ICL can be removed relatively easily. More commonly, revision surgery involves replacing one ICL with a smaller or larger ICL to improve the fit in the eye. The operation feels much the same as the original implantation, with a similar, rapid recovery. If early revision surgery is required, there is no additional charge.
  • Retinal detachment is a sight-threatening problem, which is more common in people with severe myopia (short sight). Cataract surgery, in which the natural lens is replaced with a new lens, is known to increase slightly the risk of retinal detachment in highly myopic patients. ICL implantation is less invasive, and is not known to increase the risk of retinal detachment. The overriding point is that retinal detachment is a condition that any high myopic patient should be aware of, regardless of whether or not you have refractive surgery. Danger signs are flashing lights within the eye, a sudden new shower of floaters, or the sense that part of your visual field is missing. If you experience any of these changes in your vision, you should seek an urgent eye examination. 9 out of 10 retinal detachments are successfully repaired at the first attempt, and the likelihood of success is increased by catching the problem at an early stage. Careful examination of your eye before ICL surgery will help to identify any predisposition to retinal detachment, and preventative treatment may then be performed.