Implantable Contact Lens (ICL)

How an Implantantable Contact Lens Works 

A lens is permanently placed in the front chamber of the eye, between the cornea and the natural lens of the eye. Phakic refers to still having the eye's natural internal lens which is removed in cataract surgery. Implantable Lenses are tiny lenses designed to be placed permanently within the eye to correct vision problems. They are manufactured of materials that are biocompatible, so they can rest within the eye without needing any care. Various types of lenses are designed to rest in selected positions in the front chamber of the eye. Implanting one of these special lenses offers dramatic results that are quite predictable and reversible, if necessary.

One to two weeks before the surgery, the implantable lens patient undergoes a simple laser procedure known as an iridotomy. The surgeon uses an Nd:YAG laser to create two or three small openings in the peripheral iris, the colored part of the eye. These openings help ensure that the placement of the lens will not cause blockage of fluid that flows through the front chamber of the eye. A blockage can lead to an increase of fluid pressure known as glaucoma.

Lens implantation is a simple outpatient procedure. Patients sit in a surgical chair, which is reclined back into a horizontal position. Attentive assistants ensure that patients are very comfortable as they drape them with sterile sheets in preparation for surgery.

Patients are not put to sleep, but they can be sedated with oral or intravenous medications, if necessary. Only the selected eye is "frozen" for this painless surgery. In most cases, topical drops are used to anesthetize the eye, so no injection is necessary.

To begin, the surgeon makes a small incision of 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch (3.0 to 5.0 mm) in either the white sclera or on the edge of the cornea. The surgeon then inserts an open or a folded implantable lens through the incision and carefully positions it behind the cornea, in front of the eye's natural internal lens. The implanted lens, selected with a specified focal power, becomes the eye's third lens. The small incision surgery is usually completed without stitches, since the incision is designed to be self-sealing. The whole procedure takes approximately 20 minutes.

Currently, lens implants cannot correct astigmatism. If needed, other surgical procedures can be combined with lens implantation to solve astigmatism focusing problems.

Who Benefits Most

People benefitting from Implantable Contact Lens have very high degrees of nearsightedness or farsightedness, beyond what is easily corrected by laser or ring segment surgical options that alter the corneal curvature.

After Surgery Expectations

Visual recovery after a lens has been implanted, in most cases, is rapid. A few minutes after the surgery, patients are able to see well enough to engage in regular activities with dramatically increased visual freedom. Full visual recovery may take a few days.

Side effects are minimal. Patients can expect increased light sensitivity for a few days, so sunglasses need to be worn more often than usual during this time. The implanted lens cannot be felt inside the eye.

If the stable visual result is not ideal, a second surgical procedure to adjust or replace the lens is generally possible, but corneal laser surgery (LASIK or PRK) to fine tune the result is usually recommended.


  • Correction of very high degrees of nearsightedness and farsightedness.
  • Predictable outcomes, even in high corrections.
  • Fast visual stabilization.
  • Does not alter the tissue of the cornea.
  • Minimal side effects.
  • Can be combined with other corrective options.
  • Reversible in effect.