Intrastromal corneal ring segments, also known as intracorneal rings or intacs, are small devices implanted into the eye to correct vision. This minimally invasive surgical option is usually used to correct mild to moderate myopia (nearsightedness) or keratoconus, an eye disorder in which the cornea takes on a more conical shape than the normal gradual curve.
Who Are Candidates?
You may be a good candidate for corneal ring segments if you have keratoconus or mild nearsightedness with no more than -3.0 diopters of myopia. In general, patients are adults aged 21 or older, in good overall health and your eyeglass prescription must be stable for at least a year. Some patients opt for intacs because the implants are removable, allowing for reversal of the correction or replacement with a different implant to change the degree of correction. Certain eye diseases or health conditions may make you unsuitable for Intacs. A full eye exam will help your ophthalmologist determine whether Intacs are right for you.
Corneal Ring Implant Procedure
The procedure requires less than an hour in your eye doctor’s office. It is performed with anesthetic eye drops and you will be awake during the process, though you won’t be able to see clearly.
Intacs are implanted in the eye through a small incision made into the cornea. Once the incision is made, the eye surgeon inserts two semi-circular or crescent-shaped devices between the layers of the cornea, one on each side of the pupil. You may feel a little pressure while this is being done but no pain.
These rings are made of PMMA (an acrylic glass) and have the effect of making the cornea flatter thereby changing the way that light is bent (refracted) as it passes through the cornea. There are different thicknesses available which control the amount of corneal flattening. No tissue is removed during the procedure to implant Intacs, unlike with laser eye surgery.
Once the Intacs are in place, the incision will close by itself without the need for sutures. After the Intacs have been inserted, you’ll be free to return home immediately, though you’ll need someone to drive you.
Complications & Risks
Intacs are safe and effective, and serious complications are extremely rare. Potential risks include vision distortion, problems with night vision, and infection. Approximately 4 percent of patients experience visual disturbances or are not satisfied with the results; in such situations, a surgeon can remove the Intacs returning vision to the way it was before surgery.
After surgery, plan to take a few days away from work to rest your eyes. Most patients are able to return to their normal activity level within a day or two. You won’t feel the rings once they’re inserted into your eyes, but your eyes will need some time to heal before you experience vision improvement. Intracorneal rings have a greater success rate of vision correction when compared with LASIK and other types of refractive surgery. Many patients find that they are able to achieve 20/20 vision or better after the procedure.
Cost of Surgery
The cost of Intacs varies from surgeon to surgeon, but is usually between $2,000 and $7,000. Your total costs will include the implanted devices themselves, the surgeon’s fee, the facility and equipment fees, and any pre- or post-operative care, such as medicated eye drops.