SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Mercy Hospital in Springfield is receiving national recognition for providing more than 10,000 patients with bladeless cataract surgery.

The milestone makes these Ozarks ophthalmologist the most experienced in the country with Catalys laser.

According to Section Chair of Ophthalmology Dr. Shachar Tauber, offering the procedure at no additional cost was once thought of as impossible.

“In this beautiful community, we’ve been able to offer something that the world said couldn’t be done,” Dr. Tauber said. “You know what, we did it.”

Before the laser technology, removing cataracts was done solely by hand.
“It’s like trying to take the skin off the grape,” Dr. Tauber said. “You have to do it perfectly in a circle. It has to be five millimeters, not six. It can’t be decentered and it can’t be less than a perfect circle.”

Debbie Westfall helped Mercy reach its milestone by being the 10,000th patient. She said she felt more comfortable with the laser technology because it eliminated human error during the procedure.
“If they’re going to use a scaffold, we’ve got a human being that might sneeze or cough,” Westfall said. “Where as you’re doing the laser, it’s going to be pinpoint and do what it’s suppose to do.”

At age 61, Westfall developed cataracts in both eyes at a younger age than most adults. She said it affected her quality of life. She noticed improvement right after surgery. The surgery takes less than two minutes to perform.

“I came in for a follow up the next day, they said I was 15/15,” Westfall said. “I was an overachiever. The bonus I got was I don’t wear reading glasses anymore.”

Studies show the laser surgery is about 10 times more accurate than the manual technique. There’s also less recovery time and more options with new lens.

Mercy ophthalmologist were the first in the country to offer the surgery at no extra charge. The team was also the first in the nation to perform pediatric cataract surgery.

“We want to go to bed the night before our surgery saying ‘everyone is getting the same, best quality work,'” Dr. Tauber said. “They were able to do it!”

The actual procedure only takes about two minutes to complete.

Ophthalmologists at Mercy were also the first in the nation to perform pediatric laser cataract removal.