According to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery each year, with an overall success rate of 98 percent or higher.
Today, most cataract surgery is done on an out-patient basis, and the entire process usually takes no more than two hours from check-in to heading home! The procedure usually lasts less than fifteen minutes and is almost painless. In fact, most patients can stay awake during surgery.
Although every surgeon has preferred techniques, cataract surgeons generally follow the same steps:
Before Your Surgery
Your surgeon will measure the curve of your cornea and the size and shape of your eye. Your doctor may ask you to temporarily stop taking certain medications that increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. You will need to provide a list of current medications, as some medications may need to be discontinued for a few days prior to surgery.
During Your Surgery
At the surgery center, you will be given a mild sedative and transferred – once you’re sedated – into the operating room. The nurses and technicians will cleanse the area around your eye, and drops will be put into your eye to dilate the pupil. An anesthetic shot or numbing eye drops will be used to make sure you’ll be comfortable throughout the surgery.
Removing Your Old Lens
Once you are numb and all the equipment is in place, your doctor will make a tiny incision in your cornea (the clear outer covering of your eye) to allow insertion of the surgical tools. A probe is inserted into the incision and high-frequency sound waves are used to break your clouded lens apart into tiny fragments. As this is happening, the probe is suctioning the pieces from your eye.
Inserting Your New Lens
Using the same tiny incision, an injector tool is inserted into the eye. Using this tool, your surgeon places the IOL into the capsule of the eye to replace the lens that was removed. The new lens unfolds into place and is secured. Your surgeon may make some slight adjustments to align the IOL based on the measurements the taken before surgery.
After Your Surgery
After the IOL is inserted, you’ll be moved into the recovery room to rest for a while. A patch may be placed over your eye. Your medical team will watch for any problems. Most people can go home after 30 minutes of recovery. Be sure a family member or loved one is available to drive you home and keep an eye on you. Then take it easy for the next day or two!
While your eye heals, you should avoid exercising, bending, or lifting anything over 25 pounds. You shouldn’t take a shower or get water in your eyes, because it may cause infection. Also avoid any activities that might throw dust into your eyes. While most post-op treatment programs include using eye drops for 1-2 months, your doctor may have different instructions depending on your surgery.