Cataract surgery is a safe and effective way to restore vision, with serious complications occurring in fewer than one in 1,000 cases. 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 outpatient basis, and the entire process usually takes no more than two hours from checking in to heading home! The procedure typically lasts less than 15 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 your eye is numb and the surgical equipment is in place, your surgeon will make a tiny incision in the cornea (the clear outer covering of the eye) to allow insertion of the surgical tools. The surgeon will then insert a probe into the incision and will use high-frequency sound waves to break the clouded lens into fragments. As this happens, the surgeon will use the probe to suction the tiny pieces of the lens from your eye.
Inserting Your New Lens
Using the same tiny incision, the surgeon will then insert an injector tool into the eye and will place the IOL into the capsule of the eye (replacing the lens that was removed). The new lens will unfold into place, where it will be secured. Your surgeon may then make some slight adjustments to align the IOL based on the measurements 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 and most people can go home after 30 minutes of recovery. You will need to have a family member or loved one available to drive you home and keep an eye on you. Then, you’ll 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, you should avoid any activities that could throw dust into your eyes. While most post-op treatment programs require using eye drops for 1-2 months, your doctor may have different instructions depending on your surgery. Overall, recovery time is typically short, and most patients can resume normal activities the next day.