Purpose of review: To review the current ophthalmic literature regarding the impact of modern cataract surgery on intraocular pressure (IOP).
Recent findings: Many articles in the literature demonstrate a modest, long-lasting decrease in IOP following phacoemulsification and posterior chamber intraocular lens implantation in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension. The mechanism of this average pressure-lowering effect has yet to be elucidated. The IOP reductions obtained in patients with angle closure glaucoma are often more pronounced than those seen in patients with open angles. Patients with higher levels of preoperative IOP obtain greater average reductions in IOP, although this phenomenon may partially be explained by a statistical effect known as regression to the mean.
Summary: Although it is well recognized that phacoemulsification may result in a modest sustained reduction in IOP, there are several limitations in the studies that have assessed the magnitude of this effect. The implications of such IOP reduction with cataract surgery on the medical and surgical algorithms for care in patients with open-angle glaucoma and coexistent cataract remain unclear. In contrast, the substantial benefits of cataract surgery in patients with acute and chronic angle-closure glaucoma have been well studied and are generally widely accepted. An improved understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms of IOP lowering after cataract extraction may help us better predict which patients are most likely to benefit from simple cataract extraction, obviating the need for combined cataract and glaucoma surgical procedures in such circumstances.