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Refractive Lens Exchange

What is Refractive Lens Exchange?

Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) is commonly referred to as clear lens extraction or presbyopic lens correcting intraocular surgery. RLE is an emerging type of refractive surgery very similar to cataract surgery. Like many other types of refractive surgery, including LASIK eye surgery, Refractive Lens Exchange corrects nearsightedness and farsightedness. The desired refractive result is achieved with the insertion of a lens implant known as an IOL. Refractive Lens Exchange is a great option for an ophthalmologist to utilize when vision problems extend beyond the limits of lasers. For example, if a patient is too nearsighted but also has a reading issue, one of these new multifocal lenses may be a good option. Prior to the advent of the multifocal lens, refractive surgeons often performed monovision LASIK or simply just corrected the myopic disorder and then the patient just required glasses for reading. This type of refractive surgery may also be useful if a patient has extremely thin corneas not capable of handling laser surgery. Several visual situations could lead your surgeon to choose a refractive lens exchange as your best option for vision correction. As reading vision problems begin to set in for many people in their 40’s and 50’s, this type of surgery starts to make a lot more sense. Due to the multifocal capabilities of these new lens implants, you now see at both far and near distances. Since cataract surgery is on the horizon and your natural lens will be removed, you may consider this option ahead of time.

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For more information on refractive lens exchange at our offices south of Boston including Quincy, Weymouth, Norwood, Norwell, and other Massachusetts-area locations, please contact the Nielsen Eye Center today and ask for a Patient Advocate at 877-373-2020.


Because Refractive Lens Exchange is a procedure using the same technique as cataract surgery the procedure is regarded as relatively safe and effective. With the advent of the new multifocal IOL, patients experience excellent vision after surgery. The main difference between these two surgical types is that one is for cataract removal and the other is to correct for refractive error.

The Refractive Lens Exchange Procedure

Refractive Lens Exchange uses the same technique used in cataract surgery. This technique has been used for decades and is the best method for cataract removal and lens insertion. During the surgical procedure, the patient is first prepped using a local anesthetic and drops. After the eye has been sterilized the surgeon will make a 2.5 to 3-millimeter incision in the eye. In order to see inside the eye, our doctors perform this delicate surgery with a powerful magnifying microscope. A device known as the emulsifier is inserted to the eye and begins to remove the natural lens. Once all of the lens material has been evacuated a foldable intraocular lens is inserted in the same place as the old lens. The refractive lens exchange is performed on an outpatient basis and only one eye is treated at a time. After the surgery is complete you will be required to go home and rest for the remainder of the day. Most patients report rapid visual improvement immediately after surgery.

Advantages of Refractive Lens Exchange

  • Reduces the dependence on glasses and contact lenses
  • Rapid visual recovery
  • Excellent results without using a laser
  • Eliminates the need for cataract surgery in the future

Premium Lens Implant Options

Prior to undergoing the refractive lens exchange procedure, you will be given several choices for lens implant options. Our doctors will make a lens suggestion based on your specific visual needs. Each of the premium lens implant options have unique attributes that may or may not be beneficial. The Multifocal IOL lens implants are also commonly called premium lens implants and are typically used in refractive lens exchange cases.

Learn more about premium Lens Implant Options at Nielsen Eye Center!