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Laser-assisted cataract surgery safe, effective

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By Dr. Mark S. Siegel

Traditional or manual cataract surgery is one of the most common, safe and effective surgeries performed today.

The result of the surgery depends heavily on the surgeon’s skill and experience.

In manual cataract surgery, the surgeon uses a hand-held blade made of metal or diamond to create an incision in the cornea. A needle is then used to open up the cataract in a step called the capsulotomy. The surgeon can then break up the cataract using ultrasound and remove it, before inserting an intraocular lens (IOL).

Laser-assisted cataract surgery uses a femtosecond laser to remove cataracts accurately and precisely, replacing the use of handmade incisions.

The surgeon customizes a specific surgical plan with a 3-D image of the eye called OCT (optical coherence tomography). This innovative procedure used for cataract removal has been successfully performed for the past few years. With the specifications for location, depth and length in all planes, the femtosecond laser can perform the cataract removal with micro-level precision.

Benefits of laser-assisted surgery

There are many benefits to using femtosecond laser instead of conventional, manual cataract surgery. Laser-assisted cataract surgery is:

• Accurate: With the delicacy of eye surgery, even the smallest variation can create sharper vision. Laser-assisted cataract surgery introduces a new level of sophistication for preparing the eye for surgery and for performing the surgery itself. Computerized mapping and 3-D measurements give exact specifications for the procedure to achieve precise results. During the surgery, real-time visualization helps guide your surgeon for accurate incision placement.

• Bladeless: You may be hesitant about having eye surgery, and you are not alone. Laser-assisted cataract surgery is a minimally invasive procedure and offers computer-guided control when making the incisions and breaking up the cataract. This innovative technology provides efficient and effective treatment for cataracts without using a traditional blade. Lasers offer a new level of accuracy to restore ideal vision quickly.

• Customizable: Your eye is unique to you, and laser-assisted cataract surgery designs a plan specific to your own eye map. Computerized planning removes any guesswork from the procedure, and this delivers meticulous results. Your eye is thoroughly scanned for measurements, and the data is translated into a restorative, personalized plan that is custom-built for you. Laser-assisted cataract surgery also has individualized capabilities for treating astigmatism.

• Gentle: When the femtosecond laser is used to break up the cataract into small pieces, during a process called fragmentation, the subsequent amount of ultrasound energy required is significantly reduced. In my experience using the LenSx system, I’ve found a 50 percent reduction in my cumulative deposited energy levels. This reduced energy leads to clearer corneas, less stress on the eye, which translates into better vision sooner after your surgery.

What to expect before surgery

Laser-assisted cataract surgery requires detailed planning. Your surgeon will consider the anatomy of your eye and assess the pupil diameter, anterior chamber depth and the thickness of the lens and the cornea. Then, the type of lens fragmentation must be chosen. Parameters for the location, structure and depth of the corneal incisions are entered. When all data is stored, you are ready for surgery.

Your surgeon will also review your current medications and advise you of any changes that should be made either before or after surgery.

What happens during surgery?

Your eye must be docked into the laser platform to stabilize it. Next is a process called visualization, which involves 3-D, high resolution, wide-field imaging. Now, the laser procedure is ready to begin. Your surgeon will initiate the laser to perform the incisions with pre-set specifications. The laser then softens the cataract and breaks the lens into small pieces.

The surgeon then removes the deteriorated lens and implants the IOL, which will restore clear vision again.

What happens after surgery?

Recovery after cataract surgery is usually very quick, and most patients notice clearer vision within 24 hours of the procedure. Here are a few symptoms that are common after laser-assisted cataract surgery: itching, mild discomfort, tearing and sensitivity to light and touch.

Your doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops to reduce inflammation and antibiotic eye drops to reduce the risk of infection, and you will have to wear an eye shield or eyeglasses to protect your eye. It is important to avoid rubbing or pressing on your eye while it heals.

After one or two days, all discomfort should be gone and you should be able to resume most normal activities. Recovery times may vary, so talk to your surgeon if you have any concerns. If you have cataracts in both eyes, you will most likely have the second surgery in a week or two.

Talk to you ophthalmologist about which surgical method would be best to remove your cataracts, and ask for more information on laser-assisted cataract surgery.

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Beaufort Memorial adds second certified midwife 

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Catherine Tambroni-Parker

Catherine Tambroni-Parker

Beaufort Memorial Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists has added a highly experienced certified nurse-midwife to its OB-GYN team, offering expectant mothers more birthing options.

Catherine Tambroni-Parker has delivered more than 3,000 babies during her 18-year career as a nurse midwife, most recently at Park Ridge Health in Hendersonville, N.C.

She is now seeing patients at the group’s office, located at 989 Ribaut Road, Suite 201. As a nurse-midwife, she will be delivering babies at Beaufort Memorial’s Birthing Center alongside OB-GYN specialists Drs. Christopher Benson, Marlena Mattingly, Gregory Miller and Claude Tolbert.

The practice’s medical staff also includes certified nurse-midwife Janna Jones Kersh and certified nurse practitioner Maggie Bisceglia.

A graduate of State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Tambroni-Parker served as a primary care, triage, labor and delivery nurse and a maternal-child health nurse/educator in New York for 19 years. After earning her master’s degree in Midwifery at SUNY Stony Brook, she worked for 15 years at Oswego OB-GYN in a rural underserved area on the shore of Lake Ontario. A mother of three, Tambroni-Parker comes from a long line of health care professionals. Her grandmother and aunt were both midwives in Europe.

To make an appointment with Tambroni-Parker or any of the other practitioners at Beaufort Memorial Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists, call 843-522-7820.

Beaufort Memorial names new CEO

in Health/Local News/The Bluffton News by
Russell Baxley
Russell Baxley

Edmond Russell Baxley, III, has been named the new president and chief executive officer of Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

He will replace outgoing president and CEO, Rick Toomey, beginning Sept. 12. Toomey has agreed to stay on in a consulting role through the transition, as needed.

“Russell is a bright, energetic leader with an impressive track record of smart, strategic management and growth,” said BMH board Chair Terry Murray. “His experience and vision will help guide our hospital through the increasingly complex world of healthcare and position us to better serve our community for years to come.”

Baxley most recently was CEO for Lancaster Regional Medical Center in Lancaster, Pa. The 213-bed hospital includes an inpatient psychiatric hospital; cancer, heart and orthopaedic programs; multiple surgical specialties; a physician group with more than 100 providers; and a telemedicine program, among other services.

Under his leadership the hospital developed and expanded critical services, including neurosurgery and oncology; constructed a 30,000-square-foot facility with urgent care and a multitude of outpatient services, including physical and occupational therapy, sports medicine, imaging and an internal medicine clinic; developed telemedicine and population health management programs; recruited 20 primary care and specialty providers to meet the needs of the community; and improved patient satisfaction scores across 10 key areas.

A Johnsonville, S.C., native, Baxley received his Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from Clemson University and his Masters of Healthcare Administration from the University of South Carolina. He has held roles as chief operating officer, assistant chief financial officer and director of development in small- and mid-size hospitals in both South Carolina and Texas, including Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center in Hartsville, and Paris Regional Medical Center in Paris, Texas. He also served as director of operations and finance for a large family medicine practice and medical spa in Columbia.

“I am very excited to join the team at Beaufort Memorial Hospital and look forward to working with its talented and dedicated employees, medical staff, administrators and board of trustees,” said Baxley. “Everyone I’ve encountered has shown a commitment to community and a passion for patient care, both of which are building blocks for improving the health of the people we serve. I see a bright future for the hospital and am eager to build upon the excellent work of Rick Toomey and his team.”

Following the resignation of Rick Toomey last January, the BMH board of trustees appointed a nine-member search committee to find a new leader. The committee was chaired by Jerry Schulze, immediate past BMH board chair.Schulze and the team worked with executive search firm Witt/Kieffer to identify potential candidates.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Russell to the leadership team at Beaufort Memorial,” said Schulze. “In his past positions he has demonstrated great abilities to lead teams to develop and improve services, while working to maintain financial stability and growth. He will be an excellent addition to the team.”

Baxley is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and has been actively involved in community and professional organizations and activities throughout his career. He and his wife, Stephanie, are looking forward to relocating to the Lowcountry early this fall.

Dentures don’t have to be cheap to be affordable

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By Dr. Stephen Durham

When you need dentures, you don’t have to compromise to find a solution you can afford. Quality, custom dentures are within reach for most anyone.

However, jumping to a same-day solution can mean regret, discomfort, and a fit that reminds you all the time that you’re not using your own teeth.

Avoiding this disappointment just takes a little planning.

Your options are greater than you might think.

The variety of dentures available today is unprecedented, so an excellent fit can also fit the patient’s budget. And the results from across the cost spectrum can still be a breakthrough in the patient’s appearance.

Not only are the teeth brilliant, even and straight, but the patient’s whole face is brighter from a new sense of well-being.

A great fit can mean more than good eating.

A properly fit pair of dentures can open up a new, pain-free life for many patients, too.

It starts with finding your jaw’s ideal alignment, and a properly equipped dental practice can do that now with digital efficiency.

Research suggests that 30 percent of adults suffer from TMD – temporomandibular disorder.

That’s a strain on the jaw and neck muscles caused by poor alignment of the jaw.

Twice that many people may have TMD and not know where the pain is coming from. It can show up as neck pain, poor posture and sleeps disorders, so TMD is sometimes called “the great pretender.”

With dental care that’s based on finding your own ideal bite, your new dentures can relieve TMD by aligning the jaw to relax all the muscles around it.

A little care can make a lot of difference.

Before seizing a same-day solution for dentures, consider better options. You can be rewarded with a lifetime of greater comfort, confidence and joy of living.

It starts with a thoughtful consultation at an up-to-date dental practice.

A call today can lead to a happier smile, sooner than you might have thought possible.

Dr. Stephen Durham, DMD, MAGD, practices at Durham Dental at Town Center in Beaufort. For more information, 843-379-5400.

Nurse leaves retirement to resume her career

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By Marie McAden

Most people spend their career dreaming about retirement. Margo Wehrenberg spent her retirement dreaming about her career.

Four years ago, after “failing retirement,” the registered nurse returned to her profession, landing a job on the Medical-Surgical-Oncology Unit at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

“I always loved being a nurse,” she said. “I missed the satisfaction and fulfillment of caring for patients.”

Despite a 17-year lapse in her career, Wehrenberg upped her game, returning to school to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. She became a preceptor to new nurse hires and earned certifications in medical-surgical nursing and chemotherapy/biotherapy.

Earlier this month, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce honored the RN with the Outstanding Employee Award at the 2016 Civitas Awards Gala held at Tabby Place in downtown Beaufort. Latin for “the condition of the citizenship,” the Civitas awards recognize businesses, individuals and organizations in the community deemed exemplary.

Jana McClendon, a nurse on Beaufort Memorial’s fourth-floor unit, also was nominated for the award, presented each year to an individual who provides excellent customer service, is a team player and raises the bar in the workplace.

Sponsored by The Beaufort Inn, the Outstanding Employee Award was presented at the gala by the inn’s general manager Stacy Price.

Wehrenberg “demonstrates the essence of nursing every day,” Price said in her introduction. “She truly cares for her patients.”

It was the second prestigious award the nurse received this year. In February, she was honored with the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses, a national tribute reserved for RNs who go the extra mile to care for patients and their families.

The granddaughter of a patient nominated her for the DAISY Award for the compassion and care she showed her dying grandfather in his final days.

“I appreciate my patients and their families allowing me to care for them,” Wehrenberg said. “Doing what I love every day and being rewarded on such a grand scale is humbling.”

This spring, Wehrenberg was promoted to charge nurse, a role that allows her to mentor and teach other nurses. She received the same kind of support when she resumed her career.

“I was excited to see how the nursing profession had grown — especially in terms of encouraging nurses to be empowered in the everyday decisions that affect the profession,” she said. “With this encouragement, I took off.”

Margo Wehrenberg was named a Civitas Outstanding Employee. Photo courtesy of Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Margo Wehrenberg was named a Civitas Outstanding Employee. Photo courtesy of Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Old Village Association makes $2,500 donation to Alzheimer’s Family Services

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Alzheimer’s Family Services of Greater Beaufort was the recipient of a $2,500 donation from the Old Village Association of Port Royal.

Nancy Plank, president of the board of directors of OVA and owner of Smokin’ Planks Restaurant in Port Royal, said the board made the decision to donate to AFSGB because they always volunteer and support any activity the OVA hosts.

“We never have to ask; they are always there from before the event starts until after it ends,” she said. “They show up in their purple and work tirelessly. When we changed our festivals from being ticket-oriented to cash for food and beverages, they fell right in step with the change, making sure they had additional volunteers to handle the change. “

Eric Fennell, treasurer of OVA and director of Helena Place Assisted Living in Port Royal, added, “With the change to cash sales, several booths and vendors were having trouble always making change for their customers. but AFSGB was on top of that, always making change for other vendors and trying to help to make sure everyone always had what they needed.”

OVA hosts two major festivals a year, the OkterPRfest (to be held Saturday, Oct. 8) and the Softshell Crab Festival in April. Proceeds from both festivals help support economic development of businesses in Port Royal.

Alzheimer’s Family Services of Greater Beaufort is a local nonprofit providing education and support to area caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s. It holds two of its three Social Day programs in Port Royal as well as one of its support groups for caregivers.

Arlene Heape Hull, the Executive Director of AFSGB said they were “both surprised and grateful for the donation. We volunteer with OVA because it is the right thing to do. There are a lot of nonprofits in this area and we really need to all work to help each other out. We have fun working these festivals for OVA, and when we all show up in our purple shirts, we make a presence and help promote awareness of our agency. At the end of the day we are all tired and say we won’t do it again next year, but then we always do. We love it when we hear people call us the purple people!”

Top photo: AFSGB’s “Purple People” work the beer and wine tent at the 2016 Softshell Crab Festival.

Protect your eyes from sun damage

in Contributors/Dr. Mark Siegel, MD FAAO/Health by

The days are longer, the sun is hotter, the beach beckons and out comes the sunscreen.

But summer revelers looking forward to sizzling hot fun in the sun shouldn’t overlook their eyes when it comes to protecting themselves from damaging ultraviolet rays.

In support of UV Safety Month in July, Sea Island Ophthalmology joins the American Academy of Ophthalmology in sharing information on how to keep eyes safe from sun damage.

Excess sun exposure can put people at risk of serious short-term and long-term eye problems. If eyes are exposed to strong sunlight for too long without protection, UV rays can burn the cornea and cause temporary blindness in a matter of hours. Long-term sun exposure has also been linked to an increased risk of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, cancer and growths on or near the eye.

Here are five things people can do to cut their risk of eye damage from the sun:

• Wear the right sunglasses: Look for those labeled “UV400” or “100 percent UV protection” when buying sunglasses. Less costly sunglasses with this label can be just as effective as the expensive kind. Darkness or color doesn’t indicate strength of UV protection. UV rays can go through clouds, so wear sunglasses even on overcast days. And while contact lenses and lens implants may offer some benefit, they cannot protect the entire eye area from burning rays.

• Don’t stare at the sun: Sun worshippers take note: directly gazing at the sun can burn holes in the retina, the light-sensitive layer of cells in the back of the eye needed for central vision. This condition is called solar retinopathy. While rare, the damage is irreversible.

• Check your medication labels: One in three adults uses medication that could make the eyes more vulnerable to UV ray damage, according to a sun safety survey by the academy. These include certain antibiotics, birth control and estrogen pills, and psoriasis treatments containing psoralen. Check the labels on your prescriptions to see if they cause photosensitivity. If so, make sure to protect your skin and eyes or avoid sun exposure when possible.

• Put a lid on it: In addition to shades, consider wearing a hat with a broad brim. They have been shown to significantly cut exposure to harmful rays. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

• Don’t drive without UV eye protection: Don’t assume that car windows are protecting you from UV light. A recent study found that side windows blocked only 71 percent of rays, compared to 96 percent in the windshield.  Only 14 percent of side windows provided a high enough level of protection, the researchers found. So when you buckle up, make sure you are wearing glasses or sunglasses with the right UV protection.

At the end of the day, you want to retain fond memories and experiences during summer celebration, not skin cancer and blinding eye disease.

For more information, visit

Hospital recognized for stroke patient care

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Beaufort Memorial Hospital has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s 2016 Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award for providing stroke patients with the most up-to-date, evidence-based care.

Recipients of the award must meet an aggressive goal of following treatment guidelines in certain key measures at least 85 percent of the time for 12 consecutive months or more and achieve a minimum 75 percent compliance with seven out of ten stroke quality measures during the 12-month period.

The quality measures are designed to help hospital teams provide appropriate treatment based on the latest scientific evidence with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients.

“Being honored for excellent patient care is the best recognition a hospital can receive,” said BMH President and CEO Rick Toomey. “By following demonstrated best practices, we’re able to improve outcomes, dramatically impacting the lives of our patients.”

According to current guidelines, clot-busting medication should be started within 60 minutes of a patient’s arrival in the hospital to minimize brain damage and potential complications. BMH physicians have consistently outperformed the “door-to-needle” goal, averaging 45 minutes in the first quarter of 2016.

The quick response time also earned BMH a place in the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Target: Stroke Honor Roll, a designation given to hospitals that deliver intravenous thrombolytic therapy to acute ischemic stroke patients in less than 60 minutes at least 50 percent of the time.

To improve patient care for stroke patients in the community, Beaufort Memorial has taken full advantage of the Medical University of South Carolina Health Telestroke, a Web-based program that provides Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit physicians with on-demand access with MUSC Health stroke experts for consultations.

Last year, BMH doctors treated 184 patients suffering a stroke and another 45 having a “mini stroke” known as a transient ischemic attack. Telestroke consultations were initiated in 159 of those cases.

“We have three great neurologists in Beaufort, but it’s difficult for them to be available immediately in our Emergency Department 24/7,” said BMH stroke coordinator Sheri O’Brien. “With the telemedicine cart, we can reach an MUSC Health neurologist within 10 minutes.”

When it comes to Zika, prevention is the best medicine

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With the warm weather and recent rains, Lowcountry residents are bracing for the arrival of summer’s biggest menace: the mosquito. The rampant spread of Zika has made a potential onslaught of the blood-sucking little buggers especially troubling this year.

As of June 3, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) had reported one confirmed case of Zika, a virus spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. The individual had contracted the virus while traveling overseas and was not contagious by the time they returned home, DHEC officials said.

To date, all 618 reported cases of Zika in the United States have been travel-associated. No mosquitoes carrying the virus have been found anywhere in this country. But experts warn the start of mosquito season could likely lead to a local transmission.

“It’s only a matter of time before a mosquito carrying the virus crosses the continent and infects someone here in the United States,” said Dr. Kent Stock, an infectious disease specialist at Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Charleston’s Roper St. Francis Hospital. “It’s a significant threat.”

Dr. Claude Tolbert.
Dr. Claude Tolbert.

The World Health Organization has estimated Zika virus will infect 3 to 4 million people in the Western hemisphere by year’s end. There is no vaccine for the disease. The best way to prevent it is by avoiding mosquito bites, because the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus—the mosquitoes responsible for the spread of Zika in South America and the Caribbean—both reside in this area of the country.

“At this time, there is no immediate risk in the Lowcountry,” Stock said. “But we should all be taking steps to eradicate water sources where mosquitoes can breed.”

Symptoms of Zika—fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis or headache—are usually mild and last just a few days to a week. Most people infected with the virus never experience symptoms and may not even realize they have the disease.

However, the biggest health concern is for pregnant women who can pass the virus to their fetus. Experts recently confirmed that Zika has been linked to a birth defect that causes severe brain damage.

“Women who are considering conceiving should not travel to affected countries if it’s not necessary,” said Beaufort Memorial board-certified OB-GYN Dr. Claude Tolbert. “If they must go, they should protect themselves with mosquito repellant containing DEET, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and try to stay in air conditioned areas.”

He also suggested similar precautions be taken this summer in the Lowcountry.

“Right now, the best approach we can take to prevent an outbreak of Zika is to make it as inhospitable for mosquitoes as we can,” Tolbert said. “If we’re not proactive, it could become an epidemic.”

Zika also can be transmitted sexually from an infected man to his partner. Until more is known, men who have traveled to an area with Zika should abstain from having sex with a pregnant woman or use a condom.

“Women who want to conceive should wait at least eight weeks after traveling to a Zika affected country,” Tolbert said. “If your sexual partner has been exposed, wait at least six months to have unprotected sex. The virus has been found in semen up to 62 days after blood has tested negative for Zika.”

Tolbert also advised pregnant women to talk to their healthcare provider if they or their male sex partner recently traveled to an area with Zika, even if they don’t feel sick.

“We don’t know at what point in pregnancy the baby is most at risk,” he said, “so it’s best not to take any chances.”

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Goodbye, cataracts. Hello, intraocular lenses: How to decide what type of IOL is best for you

in Health by

By Dr. Mark S. Siegel

Approximately 25 million Americans have cataracts, the condition that causes cloudy, blurry or dim vision. Many will have cataract surgery each year to restore their vision.

During cataract surgery, the natural clouded lens is replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. What patients new to cataract surgery may not know is that they have a variety of IOL types to choose from, all with different benefits.

Types of IOLs include monofocal, multifocal, and toric lenses. To help people understand the differences between the lens types, here is a list of questions to consider when deciding on IOLs. The patient’s ophthalmologist will recommend which lens they believe is most appropriate for the patient based on his or her daily activities and other needs, but these questions may provide a good starting point.

HEALTH - Goodbye, Cataracts

Is cost or coverage a factor in your decision?

Not all IOL types are covered by insurance. But, Medicare and most insurance companies do cover the cost of the most traditional option, monofocal lenses. These lenses have been used for decades and are the most popular. Monofocals are set to provide the best possible, corrected vision at near, intermediate or far distances. Most people who choose monofocals have their IOLs set for distance vision and use reading glasses for near activities.

Do you often use smart phones, tablets or computers? Do you prefer to see both near and far and reduce the need for glasses?

Newer IOLs called multifocal lenses may enable wearers to see both near and distant objects. Meanwhile, they can also reduce or eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses. But, these lenses are more expensive and not covered by insurance. In addition, the ability to read and perform other tasks without glasses varies from person to person.

Do you frequently drive at night?

If night driving is important, multifocal lenses may not be the best option. Side effects such as glare or halos around lights, or decreased sharpness of vision (also known as contrast sensitivity) may occur with these lenses, especially at night or in dim light. Most people adapt to these effects, but those who frequently drive at night may be more satisfied with monofocal IOLs.

Do you have moderate to advanced astigmatism?

With astigmatism, the cornea – the clear front window of the eye – is not round and smooth like a basketball, but instead is curved like a football. This distorts or blurs the ability to see both near and distant objects. People with significant degrees of astigmatism are usually most satisfied with toric IOLs. Toric lenses have extra built-in correction for astigmatism. People who want to reduce (or possibly eliminate) the need for eyeglasses may opt for an additional treatment called limbal relaxing incisions, which are typically performed at the time of cataract surgery. These are peripheral corneal incisions that are most commonly performed with a femtosecond laser during laser cataract surgery. Insurance does not cover laser cataract surgery with toric lenses or limbal relaxing incisions.

Whether a patient chooses laser cataract surgery or manual surgery, multifocal or toric IOLs, it is important to establish reasonable expectations with your ophthalmologist. That way both the patient and surgeon will have the best chance of meeting expectations and having the best possible outcome: a happy patient whose visual goals are achieved.

Dr. Mark Siegel, MD, FAAO  is the Medical Director at Sea Island Ophthalmology in Beaufort. He may be reached at 843-525-1500. Learn more at

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