What is refractive lens exchange?

Refractive lens exchange, or RLE, corrects nearsightedness or farsightedness by replacing the eye’s natural lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) implant.

RLE is a surgical procedure that uses the same successful techniques of modern cataract surgery, and is performed on patients that are not yet candidates for cataract surgery, but wish to reduce their dependence on glasses or contact lenses. This procedure allows patients to have their natural lens removed, and have an advanced technology intraocular lens (IOL) implanted to help correct both their distance and near vision.

One of the greatest benefits of having the RLE procedure is being able to enjoy your improved vision for many years. Most patients that choose to have this procedure enjoy independence from glasses and contact lenses in most or all situations, giving them the freedom to live an active lifestyle with no hassle. Because the natural lens is replaced with an artificial lens, RLE patients do not have the need for cataract surgery in the future.



Ideal candidates for refractive lens exchange:

• Want to reduce or eliminate their dependence on glasses or contacts
• May not be a good candidate for laser vision correction
• Are typically 50+ years of age
• Have no health issues affecting their eyes, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration

The best way to find out if you’re a great candidate for RLE is to schedule a consultation. Our staff will perform diagnostic testing, and consult with our surgeons to determine if RLE is the best choice for you.

Refractive lens exchange is performed at an outpatient surgical center, and is a relatively quick procedure. Typically, patients can expect to spend a couple of hours at the surgical center, and go home shortly after the procedure is completed.

You can expect to arrive approximately one hour prior to your procedure. Once you have checked in, you will begin to be prepared for surgery by the medical staff. The nurses will clean the area around your eye, and numbing eye drops will be used to numb your eye. Once your eye is numb, an eyelid holder, or speculum, will be placed between your eyelids to keep your eye open during your procedure.

Your surgeon will make a tiny incision, less than 1/8 of an inch wide, and use gentle vacuum suction to remove the natural lens from your eye. Next, through the same micro-incision, the new intraocular lens will be inserted, unfolded, and placed into the proper position. The incision is “self-healing” and usually requires no stitches — it heals quickly and provides a much more comfortable recuperation. The whole procedure usually takes less than 15 minutes.

You will go home shortly after the surgery and relax for the rest of the day. Everyone heals somewhat differently, but many patients report visual improvements within a few hours of their procedure. Most patients return to their normal activities within a day or two, with some limited restrictions for 1-2 weeks. Your surgeon will discuss any restrictions with you.