Purpose: To determine capsular breakage risk from contact by phacoemulsification needles by machine and tip type. Design: Experimental laboratory investigation. Methods: Infiniti (Alcon, Inc.) with Intrepid cartridges and Signature (Abbott Medical Optics, Inc.) phacoemulsification machines were tested using 19- and 20-gauge sharp and rounded tips. Actual and unoccluded flow vacuum were determined at 550 mm Hg, bottle height of 75 cm, and machine-indicated flow rate of 60 mL/minute. Breakage from brief tip contact with a capsular surrogate and human cadaveric lenses was calculated. Results: Nineteen-gauge tips had more flow and less unoccluded flow vacuum than 20-gauge tips for both machines, with highest unoccluded flow vacuum in the Infiniti. The 19-gauge sharp tip was more likely than the 20-gauge sharp tip to cause surrogate breakage for Signature with micropulse and Ellips (Abbott Medical Optics, Inc.) ultrasound at 100% power. For Infiniti using OZil (Alcon, Inc.) ultrasound, 20-gauge sharp tips were more likely than 19-gauge sharp tips to break the membrane. For cadaveric lenses, using rounded 20-gauge tips at 100% power, breakage rates were micropulse (2.3%), Ellips (2.3%), OZil (5.3%). Breakage rates for sharp 20-gauge Ellips tips were higher than for rounded tips. Conclusions: Factors influencing capsular breakage may include active vacuum at the tip, flow rate, needle gauge, and sharpness. Nineteen-gauge sharp tips were more likely than 20-gauge tips to cause breakage in lower vacuum methods. For higher-vacuum methods, breakage is more likely with 20-gauge than with 19-gauge tips. Rounded-edge tips are less likely than sharp-edged tips to cause breakage.
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